Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney

Opening Remarks at the Third Public Hearing of the January 6th Select Committee – June 16, 2022

Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney
June 16, 2022— Washington, D.C.
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Let me take just a few minutes today to put the topic of our hearing in broader context. In our last hearing, we heard unequivocal testimony that President Trump was told his election fraud allegations were complete nonsense. We heard this from members of the Trump campaign. We heard this from President Trump’s campaign lawyers. We heard this from President Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr. We heard this from President Trump’s former Acting Attorney General, Jeff Rosen. And we heard this from President Trump’s former Acting Deputy Attorney General, Richard Donoghue. We heard from members of President Trump’s White House staff as well.

Today, we are focusing on President Trump’s relentless effort to pressure Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th. Here, again, is how the former Vice President phrased it in a speech before the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers:

[BEGIN CLIP] FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: “I heard this week that President Trump said that I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.” [END CLIP]

What the President wanted the Vice President to do was not just wrong. It was illegal and unconstitutional.

We will hear many details in today’s hearing, but please consider these two points:

First, President Trump was told repeatedly that Mike Pence lacked the Constitutional and legal authority to do what President Trump was demanding he do. This is testimony from Marc Short, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, who served in the Trump Administration in multiple positions over four years.

[BEGIN CLIP] INVESTIGATOR: “But just to pick up on that, Mr. Short, was it your impression that the Vice President had directly conveyed his position on these issues to the president? Not just to the world through a dear colleague letter, but directly to President Trump?”

MARC SHORT: “Many times.”

INVESTIGATOR: “And had been consistent in conveying his position to the President?”

MR. SHORT: “Very consistent” [END CLIP]

But President Trump plotted with a lawyer named John Eastman to pressure Pence to do so anyway. As a federal court has explained, [quote] “based on the evidence, the Court finds that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.” What exactly did President Trump know? When exactly did President Trump know that it would be illegal for Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes? Here is one sample of testimony given by one of the witnesses before us today, the Vice President’s General Counsel.”

[BEGIN CLIP] INVESTIGATOR: “Did John Eastman ever admit, as far as you know, in front of the President that his proposal would violate the Electoral Count Act?”

GREG JACOB: “I believe he did on the 4th.”

REP. CHENEY: “That was January 4th, two days before the attack on Congress. [END CLIP]

A second point. Please listen to testimony today about all of the ways that President Trump attempted to pressure Vice President Pence, including Donald Trump’s tweet at 2:24 p.m. condemning Vice President Mike Pence – when President Trump already knew a violent riot was underway at the Capitol.

In future hearings, you will hear from witnesses who were present inside the White House, who were present in the West Wing, on that day. But today, we focus on the earnest efforts of Mike Pence, who was determined to abide by his oath of office.

As Vice President Pence prepared a statement on January 5th and 6th explaining that he would not illegally refuse to count electoral votes, he said this to his staff:

[BEGIN CLIP] MR. JACOB: “The Vice President said, ‘This may be the most important thing I ever say.’”

INVESTIGATOR: “This meaning the statement?”

MR. JACOB: “The statement.” [END CLIP]

You will hear today that President Trump’s White House Counsel believed that Mike Pence did exactly the right thing on January 6th. As did others in the White House. As did Fox News Host, Sean Hannity.

Vice President Pence understood that his oath of office was more important than his loyalty to Donald Trump. He did his duty. President Trump unequivocally did not.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

"Cheney Opening Remarks At Select Committee’s Third Public Hearing." Congresswoman Liz Cheney press release, June 16, 2022. https://cheney.house.gov/2022/06/16/cheney-opening-remarks-at-select-committees-third-public-hearing.

"THOMPSON, CHENEY, & AGUILAR OPENING STATEMENTS AT SELECT COMMITTEE HEARING." Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol press release, June 16, 2022. https://january6th.house.gov/news/press-releases/thompson-cheney-aguilar-opening-statements-select-committee-hearing.