Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney

Opening Statement at the Ninth Public Hearing of the January 6th Select Committee – Oct. 13, 2022

Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney
October 13, 2023— Washington, D.C.
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Much has happened since our last public hearing on July 21st. As the Chairman mentioned, we have received new and voluminous documentation from the Secret Service, which we continue to analyze. We have received new witness testimony, including about efforts to obstruct our investigation and conceal key facts. According to public reporting, the Department of Justice has been very active in pursuing many of the issues identified in our prior hearings.

Our Committee may ultimately decide to make a series of criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. But we recognize that our role is not to make decisions regarding prosecution. The Preamble to our Constitution recites among its purposes to, “establish justice,” and our Nation’s judiciary and our U.S. Department of Justice have that responsibility.

A key element of this Committee’s responsibility is to propose reforms to prevent January 6th from ever happening again. We have already proposed, and the House has now passed, a bill to amend the Electoral Count Act, to help ensure that no other future plots to overturn an election can succeed. We will make further specific recommendations in our final report based in part on the evidence you will hear today.

Our hearings last summer began with an outline of President Trump’s multi-part plan to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. We then proceeded to demonstrate each of these elements in detail with more than 20 hours of evidence. Today we will see new evidence, but as the Chairman said, we will also synthesize evidence you have seen before.

The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6th was one man, Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it.

Exactly how did one man cause all of this? Today we will focus on President Trump’s state of mind, his intent, his motivations, and how he spurred others to do his bidding, and how another January 6th could happen again if we do not take necessary action to prevent it.

As you view our evidence today, I would suggest a focus on the following points.

First, as you will see, President Trump had a premeditated plan to declare that the election was fraudulent and stolen before election day, before he knew the election results. He made his stolen election claims on election night, against the advice of his campaign, without any evidence in hand.

Then, over the next 2 months, he sought to find those who would help him invent and spread lies about the widespread fraud. Many of those who stepped forward to help, including Rudy Giuliani, knew they never had real evidence sufficient to change the election results. On the evening of January 5th, they admitted they were still trying to find that phantom evidence.

Of course, as a result of making intentionally false claims of election fraud, Mr. Giuliani’s license to practice law has now been suspended.

Second, please recognize that President Donald Trump was in a unique position, better informed about the absence of widespread election fraud than almost any other American. President Trump’s own campaign experts told him that there was no evidence to support his claims. His own Justice Department appointees investigated the election fraud claims and told him point-blank they were false.

In mid-December 2020, President Trump’s senior advisers told him the time had come to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him. He had all of this information, but still he made the conscious choice to claim, fraudulently, that the election was stolen, to pressure State officials to change election results, to manufacture fake electoral slates, to attempt to corrupt our Department of Justice, to summon tens of thousands of supporters to Washington. Knowing that they were angry, knowing that some of them were armed, he sent them to the Capitol.

Then, as the riot was underway, he incited his supporters to further violence by publicly condemning his Vice President. Then he refused for hours to disband his rioting supporters and instruct them to leave the Capitol, even when he was begged repeatedly to do so.

None of this is normal or acceptable or lawful in our Republic.

Third, please consider today who had a hand in defeating President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election: Vice President Pence. Bill Barr, Jeff Rosen, and others at the Department of Justice. State Republican officials. White House staff who blocked proposals to mobilize the military to seize voting machines and run new elections. Our Capitol Police, aided by the Metropolitan Police. Other Federal law enforcement and our National Guard, who arrived later in the afternoon. All of these people had a hand in stopping Donald Trump.

This leads us to a key question. Why would Americans assume that our Constitution and our institutions in our Republic are invulnerable to another attack? Why would we assume that those institutions will not falter next time?

A key lesson of this investigation is this: Our institutions only hold when men and women of good faith make them hold, regardless of the political cost.

We have no guarantee that these men and women will be in place next time. Any future President inclined to attempt what Donald Trump did in 2020 has now learned not to install people who could stand in the way.

Also, please consider this: The rulings of our courts are respected and obeyed because we as citizens pledge to accept and honor them. Most importantly, our President, who has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws, swears to accept them.

What happens when the President disregards the courts’ rulings as illegitimate, when he disregards the rule of law? That, my fellow citizens, breaks our Republic.

Finally, as you view the evidence today, also consider this: President Trump knew from unassailable sources that his election fraud claims were false. He admitted he had lost the election. He took actions consistent with that belief.

Claims that President Trump actually thought the election was stolen are not supported by fact and are not a defense. There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational. No President can defy the rule of law and act this way in a constitutional republic, period.

Mr. Chairman, our Nation’s Federal judges are sworn to do impartial justice, to preserve our Constitution, and preserve our Union. Dozens of these judges have been addressing January 6th cases, and many have given us plain, unmistakable warnings about the direction of our Republic.

Let me read from one judge’s statement given at a recent sentencing hearing. ‘‘High-ranking Members of Congress and State officials who know perfectly well the claim of fraud was and is untrue and that the election was legitimate are so afraid of losing their power, they won’t say so.

“It has to be crystal clear, that it is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man who knows full well that he lost instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert.”

Mr. Chairman, the violence and lawlessness of January 6th was unjustifiable, but our Nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our Capitol. Those who planned to overturn our election and brought us to the point of violence must also be accountable. With every effort to excuse or justify the conduct of the former President, we chip away at the foundation of our Republic. Indefensible conduct is defended. Inexcusable conduct is excused. Without accountability, it all becomes normal, and it will recur.

So as we watch the evidence today, please consider where our Nation is in its history. Consider whether we can survive for another 246 years.

Most people in most places on Earth have not been free. America is an exception, and America continues only because we bind ourselves to our Founders’ principles, to our Constitution. We recognize that some principles must be beyond politics, inviolate, and more important than any single American who has ever lived.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventeenth Congress, Second Session. (Oct. 13, 2022). Meeting of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. U.S. Government Printing Office. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-117hhrg50118/pdf/CHRG-117hhrg50118.pdf.