Cheney becomes GOP’s Trump foil
Rep. Liz Cheney is using her platform on the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack to take direct aim at Donald Trump — and become a foil to the former president and de facto leader of the GOP.
Since she led a band of 10 Republicans to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riot, the Wyoming Republican and political scion has become the public face of the anti-Trump GOP movement.
But her new role as the vice chair of the Jan. 6 panel — one she owes to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — has helped elevate her national profile, through dramatic televised hearings, media interviews and big speeches, for whatever comes next.
On Thursday, Cheney will be given up to 30 minutes on the House floor to make her case for why lawmakers should vote to hold Trump confidant Stephen Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to testify or provide documents to Congress about his knowledge of the violent assault.
The critical vote comes as Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, escalates her attacks on Trump.
At a Jan. 6 panel hearing Tuesday and again in an interview Wednesday, Cheney asserted that Trump’s instructions to Bannon and other allies to invoke executive privilege reveal that Trump himself was “personally involved” in the planning and execution of the Capitol riot aimed at halting Congress’s certification of President Biden’s election victory.
“Mr. Bannon is claiming that discussions that he had with the former president, discussions on topics about which this committee is focused, which have to do with the planning for Jan. 6, that those discussions are somehow protected by executive privilege, which means [Bannon] was discussing those topics with the president,” Cheney told The Hill in a brief interview.
“So I think that it is a logical conclusion that if he’s claiming that executive privilege covers those discussions, obviously the president was involved in discussions about the planning” of the attack.
Trump’s loyalists on Capitol Hill say Cheney is wrong, irrelevant — and practically a Democrat.
Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whom Pelosi blocked from serving on the Jan. 6 panel, called Cheney’s allegations that Trump was involved “baloney.” Democrats have elevated Cheney, he said, because “Democrats always do that when a Republican is acting like a Democrat.”
A second Trump loyalist, who like Jordan is under scrutiny by the Jan. 6 panel, went even further, calling Cheney a “liar” who is “jealous” of Trump.
“Trump was not involved. Trump was not involved. Liz Cheney is a liar, and you can quote me on that,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told The Hill on Wednesday. “She’s a liar and she’s only serving her own interests, which is to tear Trump down. She’s a liar. It’s a scam. It’s a witch hunt. It’s a joke committee, and I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”
“She’s just jealous and she hates Trump,” Greene added. “Nobody cares about Liz Cheney. I think that’s the biggest story: Nobody cares about Liz Cheney or their stupid committee.”
It’s unclear whether the 55-year-old mother of five will have any future in politics after this term. Once seen as a future Speaker of the House, she was unceremoniously booted by her fellow Republicans from her No. 3 leadership spot in May after she consistently called out Trump’s lies that the 2020 election had been stolen from him. Some colleagues want her banned from the GOP conference that she once led and stripped of her powerful slot on the House Armed Services Committee.
And Cheney faces a real risk of losing her GOP primary next year after Trump singled her out for defeat and endorsed an ally, Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman, even as Cheney hauls in record sums of campaign cash.
“Low-polling Liz Cheney (19%) is actually very bad news for the Democrats, people absolutely cannot stand her as she fights for the people that have decimated her and her father for many years,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday.
“She is a smug fool, and the great State of Wyoming, together with the Republican Party, fully understands her act. To look at her is to despise her. Hopefully she will continue down this unsustainable path and she will soon be gone!”
But Democrats have breathed new life into the ostracized Cheney. With her new high-profile perch, she’s in the middle of the action and relevant once again in a building where hundreds of lawmakers are constantly vying for the media’s attention.
During a Tuesday hearing where the Jan. 6 panel voted to hold Bannon in contempt, Cheney was spotted seated to the immediate left of Thompson, signifying her No. 2 spot on the select committee. A day later, the pair appeared side by side again before the House Rules Committee as they testified in favor of their Bannon resolution. Cheney and Thompson were then spotted leaving the hearing, coordinating schedules and entering an elevator together.
Pelosi tapped two anti-Trump Republicans — Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — to serve on the Jan. 6 panel to give it some bipartisan credentials after the Speaker rejected a pair of the Republicans’ picks and the GOP staged a boycott. After spending months digging into the attack and what led up to it, committee Democrats are singing her praises.
“You’re a model constitutional patriot,” a colleague on the Jan. 6 panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), told Cheney during the Rules meeting Wednesday. “You’re going to work for the American people because our democracy will not survive if we license political coups and violent insurrections at the time of the peaceful transfer of power.”
While Cheney has burnished her reputation as a defense hawk and fiscal conservative, it’s her fight this year for democracy, fair elections and the Constitution that has given her the loudest megaphone and put her in the greatest demand.
Raised among GOP presidents, she’s now raising eyebrows in GOP circles as she accepts invitations on the 2024 circuit and refuses to rule out a challenge to Trump if he decides to make a political comeback.
Next month, Cheney will speak at a First Amendment event at the St. Anselm College’s Institute of Politics in the early primary state of New Hampshire. And she’s been invited to take part in the “Time for Choosing Speaker Series” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, a popular stop for GOP presidential hopefuls.
Asked earlier this year by NBC if she would run for president to stop Trump, Cheney repeatedly declined to rule it out.
“I think that it is the most important issue that we are facing right now as a country, and we’re facing a huge array of issues. So he must not ever again be anywhere close to the Oval Office,” Cheney said. “I won’t let a former president or anybody else unravel the democracy.”
Rebecca Beitsch contributed.