Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is not letting up.
If there’s one member of the Jan. 6 committee most focused on guiding the Justice Department to charge former president Donald Trump, it’s Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Cheney was the first, back in December, to preview the crime that the committee would ultimately focus on: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. Cheney later objected when Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said the committee wouldn’t be making a criminal referral to the Justice Department. Cheney said last week that, in fact, multiple criminal referrals could be on the way.
Cheney has now made another statement on this front, continuing to try to point the Justice Department in a specific direction.
At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Cheney roundly and somewhat preemptively dismissed the idea that Trump was merely being guided in his actions by those around them.
“Now, the argument seems to be that President Trump was manipulated by others outside the administration, that he was persuaded to ignore his closest advisers and that he was incapable of telling right from wrong,” Cheney said.
She added: “The strategy is to blame people his advisers called, quote, ‘the crazies’ for what Donald Trump did. This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.”
She said the record, in fact, showed quite the opposite — that he was told over and over again that he had in fact lost his reelection. The committee has shared lots of evidence that he had been told this, and it would play new evidence to that effect Tuesday.
Then came the key line from Cheney: “No rational or sane man in his position could disregard that information and reach the opposite conclusion. And Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”
Cheney’s choice of words is important. In sum, Cheney dismissed the idea floated by some legal experts that perhaps Trump could be guilty by virtue of his “willful blindness” to the fact that he had lost. Courts including the Supreme Court have established that when it comes to crimes like the one the Jan. 6 committee is focused on — obstruction of an official proceeding — proving that someone chose to remain “willfully blind” to the facts can be used to prove culpability.
Don’t think for a moment that Ms. Cheney has suddenly come over to the Democrats and will soon be sharing jello shots with Nancy Pelosi and AOC. She is still the hard-core conservative she’s always been, and she takes after her father by not pulling punches and making no apologies for it. Remember, he was the guy who shot a hunting companion in the face with bird-shot and it was the victim who apologized.
I also don’t think that Ms. Cheney is standing up to Trump just to shine the light of liberty and justice for all. Yes, she is doing the right thing, but she’s also doing it to ensure that the Republican Party, or what’s left of it, remains intact and out of the hands of the crazies.
In one way, she is following in the footsteps of another Republican who did not have a problem with metaphorically shooting someone in the face: Barry Goldwater, the late senator from Arizona. He was a hard-core conservative, unbending in his beliefs, and he was one of the Republicans who came to the White House in August 1974 to tell Richard Nixon that the jig was up: he had to resign. Ostensibly it was for the good of the country, but he also knew that if Congress impeached and convicted the president, the GOP would be in the wilderness for several election cycles. He was right. The Republicans got hammered in the 1974 mid-terms and Gerald Ford lost in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. But they came roaring back in 1980 and brought along with them the Moral Majority and the first of the crazies, Newt Gingrich. It probably wasn’t what Sen. Goldwater had in mind, but at least they were still in the game.
Dick Cheney and his family are old-school political operatives, always playing the long game. If Liz Cheney loses her bid for re-election, it will not be the end of her career, not by a long shot (pun intended). And while I may disagree with her on just about every policy issue and I wouldn’t vote for her, at least we know that she is willing to stand up for her principles and shoot back.
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