Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the leaders of the investigation into the January 6 uprising in the US Capitol last year, said on Sunday that Donald Trump had committed “the most serious misconduct” of any US president in history, inciting chaos and then abandoning more than three hours to call back the rioters.
Trump has hinted widely at another run for the White House in 2024, but Cheney, the vice chairman of the congressional investigative committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “I have no doubt that he is unfit” for elected office . and “should never be anywhere near the Oval Office again.”
Cheney, an outspoken critic of Trump, launched her latest tirade against her fellow Republicans days after witnesses told a House panel that Trump ignored pleas from White House aides, Republican supporters in Congress, conservative TV commentators and family members to withdraw about 2000 Trump-supporting rioters last year as they tried to prevent Congress from confirming that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated him in the 2020 election.
Trump has frequently attacked the committee investigating his role in inciting the riots, urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He called the nine-member commission a “Committee of Political Thugs and Hackers Without Elections.”
Trump criticized several of his former aides for coming out against him and testifying about what they saw inside the White House on the day of the riots, as he watched them unfold on television while sitting in the dining room near his office.
Trump said at a political rally in Arizona on Friday night: “If I announced that I was not going to run for political office again, the persecution of Donald Trump would stop immediately. They follow me because I stand up for you.’
Rioters stormed the US Capitol, vandalized the building, clashed with police and forced lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to flee for their safety. Amid the uproar, Trump mocked Pence for not having the “guts” to block the certification of the Electoral College vote that showed Biden had won.
Trump never seemed to care about the well-being of his deputy, even as some rioters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” and placed the gallows within sight of the Capitol. The committee said some of Pence’s security staff called loved ones to say goodbye, fearing they might not make it out of the Capitol alive as rioters closed in on the vice president.
Trump has privately and publicly demanded that Pence send the election results back to the states that Trump narrowly lost so that new voters supporting the 45th president can replace official voters supporting Biden. Constitutional experts say that would be illegal.
In the United States, presidents are actually elected in separate elections in each of the 50 states, rather than by popular vote. The number of electoral votes in each state depends on its population, with the largest states having the most influence. Rioters storming the Capitol tried to prevent lawmakers from confirming Biden’s eventual 306-232 Electoral College victory.
Last Thursday’s hearing was the eighth in two months, and the committee promised to hold more open meetings in September.
Cheney said the committee is still seeking testimony from Steve Bannon, the one-time Trump aide who was convicted of contempt of Congress on Friday for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena to testify. Shortly before his trial last week, Bannon said he was now ready to testify, but no appearance had been scheduled.
“I think it’s clear that Steve Bannon has the information that the committee needs,” Cheney said.
She was referring to his comment days before the November 2020 election that Trump would declare victory on election night regardless of the vote count at the time, which Trump actually did. Trump led the polls in the first hours after polls closed, but lost the election days later when mail-in ballots that heavily favored Biden were counted.
Cheney also noted that on January 5, 2021, Bannon predicted that “all hell would break loose tomorrow,” leading the investigative team to wonder what exactly Bannon knew about the Capitol riots in advance, and from whom.
She said the committee is in talks to hear testimony from Virginia [Ginni] Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who worked with Trump aides to overturn Biden’s victory.
Cheney said the committee hopes Ginny Thomas will “come forward voluntarily” but will consider issuing a subpoena if she doesn’t.