Fresh off a surprisingly strong vote of support within the House Republican conference, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney sat for an interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace in which she made clear that she has no plans of backing off her criticism of former President Donald Trump.
It was an utterly remarkable interview, the clearest renunciation of the Trump years (and the legion of supporters he leaves behind) that we’ve seen come out of the GOP since the 45th president’s election loss in November.
I went through the transcript and picked out the lines you need to see. They’re below.
1. “The oath that I took to the Constitution compelled me to vote for impeachment and it doesn’t bend to partisanship, it doesn’t bend to political pressure. It’s the most important oath that we take.”
This is Cheney’s response to the fact that she was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party over the weekend – and there are calls for her to resign after her vote to impeach the President. Her calculation? The Constitution > Donald Trump.
2. “I think, you know, that people in the party are mistaken. They believe that BLM and Antifa were behind what happened here at the Capitol. It’s just simply not the case, not true and we’re going to have a lot of work we have to do.”
In which Cheney directly rebuts one of the main false charges floating around about the January 6 Capitol riot – that it was actually organized and directed by forces of the left. Imagine if every Republican member of Congress was willing to be so forthright about this?
3. “The extent to which the president, President Trump, for months leading up to January 6 spread the notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie and people need to understand that. We need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth that we are being honest about what really did happen in 2020 so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024.”
So much this. Cheney’s stance is born, at least in part, out of political practicality. You can’t live in a fantasy world where the 2020 election was stolen and also credibly make the case to the public that you should be handed either the White House or control of Congress. Fantasies are not what governance is rooted in.
4. “I think this vote and conference made very clear, we are the party of Lincoln, we are not the party of QAnon or anti-Semitism or Holocaust deniers, or white supremacy or conspiracy theories. That’s not who we are.”
Truth is: You can’t be both. And while Cheney realizes that, it’s not at all clear to me that House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (California) does.
5. “People will want to know exactly what the president was doing. They want to know, for example, whether the tweet he sent out calling Vice President Pence a coward while the attack was underway, whether that tweet, for example, was a premeditated effort to provoke violence. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered and there will be many, many criminal investigations looking at every aspect of this and everyone who was involved, as there should be.”
Cheney here suggests that this week’s impeachment trial of Trump is really only a first step in sussing out what role he played in inciting the violence of January 6. And that the myriad criminal investigations into what exactly happened on January 6 – and what Trump did before, during and after the riot – will come under considerable scrutiny.
6. “We have never seen that kind of an assault by a president of the United States on another branch of government and that can never happen again.”
Wallace gave Cheney the chance to back off her statement explaining why she was voting to impeach Trump. She did not do so.
7. “What we already know does constitute the gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country, and this is not something that we can simply look past or pretend didn’t happen or try to move on. We’ve got to make sure this never happens again.”
This is how Cheney answered Wallace’s question about whether, if she was in the Senate, she would vote to convict and remove Trump. And it sounds like a “yes” to me.
8. “So it should not have gotten to the point that it did. I don’t believe the Democrats have any business determining who from the Republicans sit on committees, but we should have dealt with it ourselves.”
Asked whether or not House Republicans should have dealt with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her litany of offensive and intolerant statements in the past, Cheney offered this not-that-subtle criticism of McCarthy for, well, not doing anything. Remember that the only reason the full House voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments is because House Republicans failed to punish her in any way for her past anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments.
9. “Somebody who has provoked an attack on the United States Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral votes, which resulted in five people dying, who refused to stand up immediately when he was asked and stop the violence, that – that is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward.”
This is the most quoted line from Cheney’s interview – and rightly so. In it, she makes clear that she believes the former president should have no role in the GOP going forward. Which is further than any other Republican elected official has gone – at least as far as I can tell.
10. “We have to make sure that we are able to convey to the American voters, we are the party of responsibility, we are the party of truth, that we actually can be trusted to handle the challenges this nation faces like Covid, and that’s going to require us to focus on substance and policy and issues going forward but we should not be embracing the former president.”
This, to me, is the most important point Cheney makes. There’s a reason Democrats now control all levers of power in political Washington. And the reason is Donald Trump – and the deeply irresponsible way in which he (and the Republican elected officials who enabled him) acted over the last five years. If you want voters to trust you with power, you have to show that a) your party is more than simply a cult of personality and b) that you will responsibly use that power to benefit the public. Republicans have demonstrated neither over the last four years.
11. “You know, it’s really – it’s heartbreaking in many ways, Chris, because, you know, we watched the inaugural speech where [President Joe Biden] spoke of unity, where he spoke of trying to work together in the immediate actions we’ve seen with respect to, you know, things like canceling the Keystone pipeline, it’s heartless. It really is.”
Democrats praising Cheney for her principled stands on Trump would do well to remember that she is no Democrat. She has a lifetime 72% score from the conservative group Heritage Action. She is anti-Trump but not at all pro-Biden.