The Republican party has turned against Liz Cheney for her part in the January 6th committee investigations. But for her, telling the truth about what happened on that day matters more than anything else.
“Those who invaded our capital and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what president Trump had told them that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president, president Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”Liz Cheney, C-Span
That’s Liz Cheney, a Republican congresswoman, speaking at a hearing of the January 6th congressional committee.
As vice chair she’s played a leading role in the hearings alongside the Democrat chair.
The group has spent the past year collecting evidence and hearing testimony about what happened when a violent mob tried to stop Joe Biden from becoming president – and perhaps more importantly, what led them there.
Her membership of the committee is an attempt to make the inquiry non-partisan, but that’s difficult when she’s one of just two Republicans who agreed to take part. The other is Adam Kinzinger. Both voted to impeach Donald Trump.
In primetime presentations of the evidence the committee has collected, Liz Cheney has highlighted some of the most damning evidence against the former president.
She’s said that Donald Trump was at the centre of a plot to overthrow the results of the 2020 election:
“Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”Liz Cheney, C-Span
She’s highlighted the violent language that the rioters used about vice president Mike Pence – language that Donald Trump endorsed:
“And aware of the rioters chants to hang Mike Pence, the president responded with this sentiment, quote, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea”. Mike Pence quote “deserves it.”Liz Cheney, C-Span
And she’s emphasised the extreme pressure Donald Trump put on him to stop the election results from being verified:
“What the president wanted the vice president to do was not just wrong. It was illegal and unconstitutional.”Liz Cheney, C-Span
So far the committee has painted a compelling picture of the events surrounding January 6th. Donald Trump was told – multiple times – that his claims of election fraud were nonsense, but he kept trying to find ways to have the result overturned.
What he did might even amount to a criminal offence.
That’s powerful stuff from someone in Donald Trump’s party, and it’s made even more powerful because she and Adam Kinzinger are risking their political careers to uncover it.
Before January 6th, Liz Cheney was on the rise in the Republican Party.
Part of a political dynasty – her dad is former vice president Dick Cheney – she looked like she could one-day follow in his footsteps.
She’d been elected as a Congresswoman three times and had been given a leadership role in Congress.
But that was taken away when she voted to impeach Donald Trump in 2021.
And she was further side-lined when she joined the January 6th committee.
But she says that telling the truth about what happened is more important than party politics.
Here she is in an interview with CBS News earlier this month:
“We are absolutely in a moment where we have to make a decision about whether we’re going to put our love of this country above partisanship and to me there’s just no grey area in that question.”Liz Cheney, CBS News
Liz Cheney sees her duty and loyalty as being to her country – and the security of America’s democracy – above anything else.
But what does it mean for her political future?
A lot of Republican voters still support Donald Trump – and believe his lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
They think that Republicans like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney have betrayed him.
Here are some of them, in her home state of Wyoming
“I think that she’s very courageous for what she’s doing but I don’t like that she basically betrayed Donald Trump.”NBC News
“73 per cent of people in Wyoming voted for Trump and she basically stabbed us in the back.”
“She’s a traitor and she’ll get what she deserves. Being voted out of office.”MSNBC
All of this matters now, because the midterm elections are happening in November and Liz Cheney faces a challenge from a Republican candidate endorsed by Donald Trump.
Here’s the former president calling her a Republican in name only, or RINO, at a rally in Wyoming
“There is no RINO in the US who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney, that’s why in a few months time the people of Wyoming are going to tell her: Liz you’re fired. Get out of here.”Donald Trump, CNN
Polling suggests he might get his way.
But for Liz Cheney, the principles she’s fighting for are more important than her own political ambitions.
“In our country we don’t swear an oath to an individual or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States constitution and that oath must mean something. Tonight I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone but your dishonour will remain.”Liz Cheney, C-Span
The Republican Party, like the country, is divided, but many are standing by Donald Trump for now.
History will judge who did the right thing for their country.
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Ella Hill.