Cheney Takes Spotlight at First Congressional Hearing on Jan. 6 Insurrection

Cheney: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Onlookers outside the U.S. Capitol take in the big screen as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) details the Select Committee's findings: “We all have a duty to ensure what happened on January 6 never happens again.” (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol formally presented their findings to the public for the first time Thursday night, just steps from the site of the failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election 17 months ago. 

The two-hour televised hearing marked the beginning of a new phase for the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, which, for nearly a year, has been investigating the moments leading up to, during and after the carnage that amounted to the most significant attack on the Congress since 1814. Five additional hearings are expected in the coming weeks, where the panel, mostly comprised of Democrats, says it will explore the extent to which former Republican President Donald Trump played a role in the attack, as well as possible legislative solutions to prevent such violence in the future. The next hearing is slated for June 13 at 10 a.m. 

An anti-Trump protestor watches as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) takes center stage at the Select Committee’s televised opening hearing Thursday night near the U.S. Capitol. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

GOP leaders have decried the committee’s investigation as a “witch hunt” created for Democrats’ political gain.  

In her opening remarks, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the select committee and one of just two Republicans on it, spoke forcefully against the former president and those members of her party who continue to support him. 

“There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone. But your dishonor will remain,” Cheney said of Trump’s defenders. “As Americans, we all have a duty to ensure what happened on January 6 never happens again.”  

Later, committee members publicly questioned two witnesses to the Capitol assault: Nick Quested, a British documentarian who captured on camera the far-right authoritarian Proud Boys group ahead of and during the attack; and Caroline Edwards, the U.S. Capitol Police officer who was assaulted by members of the pro-Trump mob as they sought entry to the Capitol, her head thrust down on the concrete.  

Testifying before the committee, Edwards struggled to hold back tears as she watched footage of her assault. “I can just remember my breath catching in my throat, because what I saw was just a war scene,” she said. “It was carnage, it was chaos.”  

Committee members say they see the hearings as a chance to provide a full accounting of not just the violence of Jan. 6 itself, but also how Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud following the election of President Joe Biden may have inspired the attack. After interviewing hundreds of witnesses, scrutinizing thousands of hours of footage and combing through more than 100,000 pages of documents, the committee seeks to rebuff the assertion that the attack was merely a protest gone awry, as some Republicans continue to contend.  

“The violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power,” said committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). “We can’t sweep what happened under the rug.”  

Thursday’s hearing worked to demonstrate the Jan. 6 attack was planned, with witnesses speaking to coordination between the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group with ties to several of the rioters. The committee is also looking into communications that leaders of the groups may have had with Trump and other White House officials around the time of the attack. 

The U.S. Capitol serves as the backdrop for a watch party, organized by a coalition of anti-Trump advocacy groups, for the opening hearing of the Select Committee. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

Inside the Capitol on Thursday, security was tight and access to the hearing room limited. Lawmakers were seen leaving the room in tears, moved by witnesses’ emotional testimony.  

Outside, however, hundreds of onlookers showed up to watch the proceedings, broadcast on giant screens as a part of a nationwide series of watch parties organized by a coalition of anti-Trump advocacy groups. Sitting on blankets and fold-up lawn chairs, attendees remained mostly silent as they watched the hearings unfold, though audible gasps and whispers could be heard during the hearing’s tense moments.   

Politically, Democrats hope the hearings will reorient Americans’ attention to the violence that took place and blame Trump for it, at a time when other issues like rising inflation and the war in Ukraine have subsumed the headlines. With the midterm elections just months away and Democrats defending narrow majorities in Congress, vulnerable members are split between how forcefully they should highlight the attack versus and how much they should focus on other policy matters. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have argued that Democrats are more focused on re-litigating the past than they are about addressing contemporary issues like rising gas prices.  

Cheney is a staunch conservative who bucked her party by choosing to remain on the committee despite House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)’s decision to remove all Republicans serving on it. As a result, she and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) — the only other Republican who remained on the committee — faced censure by the Republican National Committee, which wrote that their continued involvement amounted to “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”  

Kinzinger opted not to seek reelection this year. Cheney, however, has not backed down, despite facing steep reelection odds in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2020. To remain in Congress, Cheney must defeat four other Republicans in the August 16 primary, including Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, who has made Cheney’s participation on the committee central to the campaign against her. 

Demonstrators demand former President Trump be held accountable for the events leading up to and during the deadly January 6 attack as the Select Committee holds the first of several hearings. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

“Cheney has pursued her own personal war on President Trump while the Democrats have used her to try to legitimize their illegitimate witch hunt and power grab,” Hageman wrote in a statement ahead of Thursday’s hearing. “Liz Cheney has now gone beyond her failure to represent Wyoming’s interests and is now complicit in Democrat plans to permanently silence the people of Wyoming.”  

Early polls show Cheney trailing her top rival by 28 percentage points, with 66 percent of voters telling pollsters they will vote against her regardless of who challenges her in the primary. Cheney’s numbers among Wyomingites are only expected to decline as she continues to play a major role in the Capitol attack hearings. 

But in Washington, Cheney has been lauded by Democrats and even some former GOP lawmakers for courage they recognize is likely to cost her a seat in Congress. Outside the Capitol, Cheney received applause as she detailed the committee’s findings into Trump’s actions surrounding the attack. 

“I respect her so, so much. And I didn’t like her father at all,” said Juli Waesche, a Washington, D.C., resident attending the watch party who identifies as a progressive. She was referring to Cheney’s father, Dick Cheney, the former Republican vice president. “I think she has been the driving force to bring Trump and his cronies to task. And I hope she’s successful.”  

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