Rep. Liz Cheney publicly nudged the Justice Department on Sunday to move against Donald Trump, warning that not holding the former president accountable for January 6 is a ‘graver Constitutional threat’ to American democracy than letting him off the hook.
‘I think that that he can’t be the party nominee’ in the 2024 presidential race, the Wyoming lawmaker told ABC News of Trump. ‘I don’t think the party would survive that.’
In her first sit-down interview since the January 6 committee’s explosive hearings began, Cheney confirmed that ‘yes,’ the panel was weighing a criminal referral for the former president over his role in the riot.
She also suggested Attorney General Merrick Garland could use the evidence lawmakers have presented so far to look into charging Trump.
‘We’ll make a decision as a committee about it,’ Cheney said, adding: ‘The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral.’
‘And there could be more than one criminal referral.’
Though the legislator did not elaborate on who else was being considered, the committee she vice chairs has put a number of top political players in its crosshairs.
Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney suggested there could be multiple criminal referrals at the end of the January 6 committee’s presentation of evidence
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and several sitting House Republicans like Reps. Scott Perry, Andy Biggs and Marjorie Taylor Greene have all been named as having a part in Trump’s alleged scheme to overturn the 2020 election.
The committee has sought to frame the January 6 attack on the Capitol as Trump and his allies’ calculated ‘last stand’ in their plot to undermine American democracy rather than an incidental violent outburst.
Asked if she believed her colleagues have laid out an effective argument for prosecution, Cheney said that was ‘ultimately’ a decision for the Justice Department.
‘I think we may well as a committee have a view on that and if you just think about it from the perspective of what kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat, when the Congress is under threat,’ Cheney said.
‘I think there’s no question, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again,’ Cheney said on ABC News
‘It’s just – it’s very chilling and I think certainly we will, you know, continue to present to the American people what we found.’
Turning ahead to the next presidential race, Cheney denied that it would undermine democracy for a former president to be prosecuted by the Justice Department of the current chief, in the event of a rematch against President Joe Biden.
‘I have greater concern about what it would mean if people weren’t held accountable for what’s happened here,’ the Wyoming Republican said.
‘I think it’s a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities and, you know, the majority of the president’s party looks away or we as a country decide, you know, we’re not actually going to take our constitutional obligations seriously. I think that’s a much more serious threat.’
However she denied that the hearings are in any way ‘political,’ an accusation frequently lobbed by Trump and his allies, though Cheney admitted she did not believe he is fit for office.
‘I think there’s no question, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again,’ she said.
If Trump wins the GOP presidential primary a third time, Cheney warned, it could spell the end of the party.
‘I believe in the party, and I believe in what the party can be and what the party can stand for. And I’m not ready to give that up,’ she said.
‘Those of us who believe in Republican principles and ideals have a responsibility to try to lead the Party back to what it can be and to reject so much of the toxin and the vitriol.’
The representative left the door open to her own White House aspirations, which could pit her against Trump in a historically tense Republican race for the 2024 election cycle.
‘’ll make a decision about ‘24 down the road,’ Cheney said.
‘But I think about it less in terms of a decision about running for office and more in terms of, you know, as an American and as somebody who’s in a position of public trust now, how do I make sure that I’m doing everything I can to do the right thing?’
The most damning testimony for the January 6 committee so far has come from Meadows’ former White House assistant Cassidy Hutchinson, who told the panel last week that the former president tried to physically commandeer his vehicle from his Secret Service detail in a bid to accompany his supporters to the Capitol, and that he ‘lunged’ for his top agent’s throat when he was stopped.
She made a very public urge on the Justice Department to further ramp up its investigation of Trump and his allies, after the probe publicly gained steam in recent weeks
‘What Cassidy Hutchinson did was an unbelievable example of bravery and of courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure,’ Cheney said on Thursday.
She pointed out that nobody who was disputing Hutchinson’s story in the media has yet cooperated with the committee on the public record.
‘The Committee is not going to stand by and watch her character be assassinated by anonymous sources and by men who are claiming executive privilege,’ Cheney said.
‘And so we look forward very much to additional testimony under oath on a whole range of issues.’
Asked if the panel had anything to corroborate the presidential motorcade testimony, the lawmaker replied: ‘The Committee has significant evidence about a whole range of issues including the president’s intense anger.’
Last week, Hutchinson had testified that her former boss Meadows, along with Giuliani, personally sought pardons for their efforts linked to January 6 and Trump’s 2020 election fraud claims.
Among her other bombshell revelations about Trump were that he approved of his supporters chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ once they broke into the Capitol – adding grim new context to his tweet that day stating his former vice president lacked ‘courage.’
She also testified that the ex-president knew that his supporters were armed when he encouraged them to march on the Capitol.
Since then Trump has distanced himself from Hutchinson and minimized her role in his administration, while hurling a litany of insults at the 25-year-old former aide.
‘The woman is living in fantasy land. She’s a social climber – if you call that social. I think it’s just a shame that this is happening to our country,’ Trump said on Newsmax.