WASHINGTON — Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the former Republican leader who was removed from office and pushed to the sidelines by her own party for bluntly denouncing former President Donald J. Trump’s false election claims, has resurfaced as a force on Capitol Hill – this time as one of the most active and aggressive members of the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
The uninhibited style of Mrs. Cheney drew the spotlight this week as the committee led the charge to scorn Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, for his refusal to cooperate with the panel’s investigation.
Twice in the space of two days, from the hearing rooms on Capitol Hill, she read aloud panicked and angry text messages to Republican lawmakers Mr. Meadows sent on January 6 when rioters besieged the complex.
“It’s really bad up here on the hill,” someone wrote in a text Mrs. Cheney read Tuesday, ahead of a House vote to scorn Mr. Meadows. “The president needs to stop this as soon as possible,” said another. A third simply wrote, “Fix this now.”
Ms. Cheney’s nomination — delivered in her signature monotone — reflected her approach as the vice chair of the panel, serving in defiance of Republican leaders who have tried to thwart the investigation at every turn.
Both publicly and behind the scenes, Ms. Cheney has used her position to hold up a ruthless and often unflattering mirror to her own party, exposing Republicans’ complicity in the stolen election story that sparked the 6 January fueled. She has done so even in the face of a primary challenge from a Trump-backed candidate likely to be a referendum on the former president.
“For her, it’s about setting out with great relief what the truth is, and somehow letting the Republican Party face that truth,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “‘Here are the text messages, here are the phone logs, here are the calls.’ That will be a very difficult storyline to refute.”
Understand the US Capitol Riots
On January 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
Ms. Cheney, the scion of a conservative dynasty, is in an unusual place due to her position on the committee, as is the panel’s only other Republican member, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger. They have been banned and mocked as tribunes by their own party; at the same time, they have been embraced by Democrats as the only Republicans willing to demand full and bipartisan accountability for the worst attack on Congress in centuries.
During committee hearings and floor debates, Ms. Cheney often tailors her public comments to an audience of Republican voters and elected officials. On Monday, she chose to read publicly tormented texts sent to Mr. Meadows had been sent by conservative personalities such as Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.
In doing so, Ms. Cheney claimed there was a time when even the most devoted loyalists to Mr. Trump understood that his passivity to the violence at the Capitol was unforgivable.
“We Republicans used to be united on this point — in terms of what happened on Jan. 6 and the responsibility the president had to stop it,” said Ms. Cheney.
But her challenge is that her audience is decidedly hostile, a reality perhaps nowhere more apparent than at home in Wyoming, where she has been purged of the state party and faces a challenge from Harriet Hageman, a Never Trumper turned MAGA acolyte.
“By pointing out the facts of what happened on Jan. 6, and the hypocrisy of those pushing a story to a population that wants to receive it, she identifies the lies,” said Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman of the staff of the special committee. . “And in the hope that a small percentage will see this and understand that January 6 was not only one of the worst things in our history, in our capital, but has also been used to play people for money.”
Behind the scenes, Mrs. Cheney has been just as aggressive. She is known to make her own comments ahead of hearings and to do her own preparatory work, delving into the voluminous documents obtained by the committee. She also urged the assembly of a team of former intelligence analysts and law enforcement specialists on the committee’s staff, some of them Republicans — a move that cemented the committee’s bipartisan loyalty.
In closed-door interviews conducted in a nondescript federal office building near the Capitol, Ms. Cheney has emerged as a leader and central figure on the panel, known for her depth in the details of the assignment she has completed. as the most important of her political career. She is well versed in the criminal code and often uses language borrowed from it to express her belief that the former president and others are involved in criminal activity.
In particular, she has been pointed out by suggesting that by failing to halt the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump may have violated a federal law prohibiting obstruction of official proceedings before Congress.
“We know that hours have passed with no action by the president to defend the United States Congress from an attack as we tried to count the electoral votes,” said Ms. Cheney. “Mr. Meadows’ testimony will address an important question for this committee: Has Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly attempted to obstruct or obstruct the official Congressional procedure for counting the electoral votes?”
Key Aspects of the Jan 6 Inquiry
The home survey. A select committee is investigating the causes of the January 6 riots in the US Capitol, which took place as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid several attempts to reverse the results. Here are some people and places being explored:
The statute Ms. Cheney cited is the basis for the main indictment law enforcement has filed against more than 200 Capitol rioters accused of interfering with Congress’s role in certifying the Electoral College vote. The obstruction law, which prosecutors have used instead of sedition or insurrection, is how the government has chosen to describe January 6’s central political crime: disrupting the peaceful transfer of power.
Ms. Cheney has also proven herself to be a tough and meticulous interrogator in deposition interviews.
When Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department attorney who participated in Mr. Trump’s frenzied efforts to reverse the election, appeared before the committee last month, Ms. Cheney pressed him into a series of quick questions about various aspects of the election. plan to bring Mr Trump to power.
“In terms of your claims about Dominion voting machines and smart thermostats, can you explain where you got that information?” she asked about a wild conspiracy theory about voting machine hacking that was endorsed by Trump supporters.
Ms. Cheney has shown particular interest in holding members of her own party accountable.
“I would like to ask the witness when he first met Congressman Scott Perry,” Ms. Cheney asked Mr. Clark, referring to a lawmaker who had acted as an intermediary between him and Mr. Trump.
“Have you had any interaction with other members of Congress?” she asked at another time.
Each time, Mr. Clark refused to answer.
“I just want to be clear that I want the file to show that Mr. Clark refuses to answer all questions, including those that have nothing to do with his interaction with the president, questions that may not be addressed by any executive’s assertion.” privilege,” said Mrs. Cheney.
Ms. Cheney has said the investigation could well lead Mr Trump to face her questions, with criminal penalties hanging over him if he lies.
“Any communication Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath,” Ms. Cheney said this month. “And if he then persists in lying, he will be responsible under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he utters.”
Alan Feuer reporting contributed.