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Rep. Liz Cheney hints at potential criminal referral for Trump in lecture at Notre Dame

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Friday at her lecture at Notre Dame she thinks “there’s no question about the answer” regarding whether or not former President Donald Trump broke the law during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, referenced U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s March opinion that stated it is likely that Trump and his lawyer John Eastman broke at least two federal statutes. 

Cheney, who lost her Wyoming GOP primary to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, said she expects the committee to approach a potential criminal referral for Trump “in a unanimous way.”

During the committee’s ninth and potentially final public hearing Thursday, the members voted unanimously to subpoena testimony from Trump. Cheney said Thursday’s hearing was “not necessarily the last hearing” and the committee felt it was acting responsibly by collecting evidence from figures around Trump before subpoenaing him. 

Following more than a year of investigation by the committee, Cheney said Trump had a premeditated plan to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the election and in spite of evidence demonstrating an absence of voter fraud. 

“On election day and in the days after the election, there was no American who was better informed about the absence of fraud than Donald Trump,” she said. “In spite of this, he made a conscious decision to claim fraudulently that the election was stolen.”

She said Trump proceeded to pressure state officials to change election results and pressure both state and Republican Party officials to manufacture fake electoral slates that tried to correct the Department of Justice.

On the day of Jan. 6, Trump was the lone person with the ability to send the rioters home, Cheney said. Instead of calling for an end to the attack as staff members, family members and members of Congress were urging him to do, he sent a tweet at 2:24 p.m. criticizing former Vice President Mike Pence for not cooperating in his bid to overturn the election, which incited further violence, she argued, and sat quietly while watching the events unfold on television.

“I want you to think about what kind of human being does that,” she said. “That is not normal or acceptable or lawful in our republic.”

Cheney said a police officer told her that night he had never seen anything like the combat he witnessed Jan. 6. The officer was an Iraq War veteran.

Despite the prevalence of Republican candidates today who cast doubt on the election, Cheney said the courage of Republicans who resisted and continue to resist Trump’s efforts inspires her.

“But what gives me hope has been the individuals that both have testified in front of the committee and those who haven’t, but those who acted that day to save the republic. That is one of the most important stories of what happened on January 6,” she said. “The power and the courage and the dazzling honor of individual Americans to save this republic. And they’re mostly Republicans.”

Calling Donald Trump “an ongoing and real threat,” Cheney said the hearings are not partisan. Nearly every witness who has testified has been a Republican.

“This isn’t about politics,” she said.

Cheney said there are too many Republicans in elected office who ignore the threat posed by Trump. She called the ability to commit oneself to the Constitution regardless of an election outcome the “fundamental fabric” of American democracy that is currently at risk.

“Most people in most places in most periods of time on this earth have not been free. America is an exception. And we continue only because we bind ourselves to our founding principles and to our Constitution,” Cheney said.

Cheney called on Americans to refuse to act as bystanders.

“There is no power on this earth that is stronger than free citizens determined to stand together to defend the miracle and the blessing of our freedom,” she said.

As Cheney’s term concludes, she faces questions about her political career after Congress. She said a decision about whether she will run for president will come in the near future.

“I think 2024 is going to be really important. I think it’s going to be crucial that we elect people that will defend the Constitution,” she said. “I haven’t made a decision yet about what I’m going to do. We have a lot of excellent candidates, we have a lot of bad candidates too, so I’ll make a decision about that in the coming months.”

Contact Ryan at rpeters5@nd.edu