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The patriotism of many Americans was turned into a “weapon” during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, by a former president who continues to prey on his supporters, Rep. Liz Cheney said Thursday night.
Cheney, the vice chair of the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the attack, delivered a forceful and sober final statement at the conclusion of a nearly three-hour hearing on Capitol Hill.
The Republican congresswoman from Wyoming addressed her comments to those who are skeptical of the committee’s work, which includes many voters in her own home state.
“The case against Donald Trump in these hearings is not made by witnesses who were his political enemies. It is, instead, a series of confessions by Donald Trump’s own appointees, his own friends, his own campaign officials, people who worked for him for years, and his own family,” Cheney said.
Cheney made a distinction between Trump and his supporters, noting that many who voted for the former president would eagerly defend the country with their own lives. “Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened. They would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her,” she said.
But, she said, on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump “turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution.”
Trump is even now “preying on their patriotism” by continuing to insist he somehow won the 2020 election, despite no evidence to support his baseless claims, Cheney said.
The nine hearings so far, she said, have shown that “Donald Trump’s plan to falsely claim victory in 2020, no matter what the facts actually were, was premeditated.”
The hearing Thursday showed evidence that Trump did nothing to stop the violence on Jan. 6, that Vice President Mike Pence called in police and military units to shut down the riot and that Trump rejected calls from his family and aides to call off the mob until he knew the attack would be repelled by law enforcement.
Cheney closed her comments by asking Americans to consider the gravity of allowing Trump back into power again.
“Every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?" she said.
Cheney is facing the possibility of losing her seat in Congress if she loses the Aug. 16 primary in Wyoming to a Republican challenger who has parroted Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. But her words Thursday demonstrated a resolve on her part to continue waging a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.
When Cheney was stripped of her leadership position in the House Republican Conference last year, she vowed then to stop Trump from being reelected. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” she said.
If Cheney loses her congressional seat, and even if she wins, she’s likely to run for president in 2024 in order to keep making the case that Trump is unfit to lead the GOP, much less the nation, according to conversations with Republicans close to the matter.
Cheney ended the hearing Thursday by making clear that the committee’s work is not done, and that there will be more hearings after Labor Day.
“Ronald Reagan’s great ally Margaret Thatcher said this: ‘Let it never be said that the dedication of those who love freedom is less than the determination of those who would destroy it,’” she said. “Let me assure every one of you this: Our committee understands the gravity of this moment, the consequences for our nation. We have much work yet to do, and will see you all in September.”