Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Wednesday that the Jan. 6 committee’s work has shown that former President Donald Trump’s involvement in a plot to overturn the 2020 election was “even more chilling and more threatening than we could have imagined.”
“We have to choose. The Republican Party cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a speech Wednesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. “We stand at the edge of an abyss and we must pull back. We must pull back.”
Cheney said she has been motivated to stand against Trump’s lies about the 2020 election because of her hopes that her children “will continue to live in an America where the peaceful transfer of power is guaranteed ... [and] in an America that is a nation of laws, not of men.”
And Cheney drew a biting contrast between a number of young women from within the Trump administration who have cooperated with the Jan. 6 committee, and a number of older men who have not. She spotlighted Cassidy Hutchinson, the White House aide whose testimony Tuesday provided riveting detail into Trump’s actions and state of mind on Jan. 6 and in the days leading up to it.
“I have been incredibly moved by the young women ... who have come forward to testify in the January 6th committee ... who knew immediately that what happened on January 6 must never happen again,” Cheney said.
Cheney said that “[Hutchinson’s] superiors — men many years older — a number of them are hiding behind executive privilege, anonymity and intimidation,” an apparent reference to, among others, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Hutchinson’s boss on Jan. 6.
Hutchinson’s “bravery and patriotism yesterday were awesome to behold,” Cheney said. “Little girls all across this great nation are seeing what it really means to love this country, what it really means to be a patriot.”
Cheney’s speech comes at a moment of high drama and consequence in her political career. She has been at the center, over the last month, of the hearings conducted by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by extremist Trump supporters. The mob assaulted the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Since Jan. 6, Cheney has been unwavering in her criticism of Trump; she’s been no less critical of other GOP leaders, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who have shifted away from their original denunciations of Trump and sought to curry favor with him again.
A year ago, Cheney said she would “do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.” She left the door open to running for president herself in order to do so.
But Cheney’s uncompromising stance has put her political career in jeopardy. McCarthy presided over the House GOP’s removal of Cheney from its leadership last year. And the anger of Trump supporters toward Cheney means that she is now facing the prospect of losing her seat in Congress early next year. Wyoming voters will decide her fate in a primary election contest that will take place on Aug. 16.
Cheney has recently begun to seek support from registered Democrats in Wyoming, sending them mailers that instruct them how to switch their party registration if they want to vote for her in the Republican primary. It’s a sign that her campaign, despite its fundraising success, has polling data showing an uphill climb.
The Reagan Foundation Speaker Series, which launched in 2021, has at times looked like an audition for Republican politicians who want to replace Trump as the leader of the GOP. Several potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have spoken since last year, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Christie used his speech last fall to declare that Republicans should not put “comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths,” in a swipe at Trump’s continued attempts to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him. “Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time, energy and credibility,” Christie said.
And last summer, Pence said in his speech at the Reagan library that he was proud to have certified the results of the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021, which he did even though he was under great pressure from Trump to overturn the results. Pence called Jan. 6 a “tragic day.”