“This November, we are faced with the obligation, the duty of all of us as Americans, to work together, stand together and vote together to make sure that we elect people who believe in the Constitution and to make sure that Donald Trump is never—never—anywhere near the Oval Office, ever again,” former Congressmember Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told a crowd of hundreds at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena during the Distinguished Speaker Series on January 31.
Cheney represented Wyoming’s sole congressional district for three terms, from 2017-2023. She served in House Republican leadership as chair of the House Republican Conference from 2019-2021 after serving on the House Armed Services Committee, China Task Force, Natural Resources Committee and Rules Committee. She previously worked at the State Department, USAID, the White and Case law firm and the International Finance Corporation. Currently, she’s a professor of practice with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Her memoir, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, was published on December 5.
After former President Donald Trump instigated an insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, Cheney publicly broke with her fellow Republicans in denouncing Trump and calling out his lies about the 2020 election. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed her as vice chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, which ultimately recommended that the Justice Department prosecute Trump for conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to make a false statement and aiding an insurrection.
“I never thought I’d be working with Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi,” Cheney joked. “They thought it was weird, too.”
Breaking from Trump was a Profile in Courage
Her break from Trump cost Cheney her position in House Republican leadership, a censure vote and ultimately her seat in Congress when she lost the GOP primary in 2022 to the Trump-backed challenger, Harriet Hageman. However, it also led to Cheney receiving the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage award in 2022, along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The foundation commended Cheney for her “consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy.”
Cheney said she began her political career in 1976 when she was just ten years old. She volunteered for President Gerald Ford’s losing campaign against challenger Jimmy Carter. Her mother and future Second Lady Lynne Cheney took her to Ford campaign headquarters, where they put Liz and her sister Mary—whose marriage to a woman named Heather Poe years later Liz would publicly denounce during her failed run for Senate in Wyoming in 2014—to work sealing envelopes. The Ford campaign soon fired Liz because she kept getting the envelopes too wet with a sponge, she joked in Pasadena.
“But I did not let this in any way dim my love for politics and campaigning,” she said.
She told another story about Mary during that same campaign in which her sister had a lucrative side hustle by forming a line of paying kids who wanted President Ford’s autograph when he was visiting and campaigning for their father and future Vice President Dick Cheney, then running for Congress in Wyoming.
“We were as close as sisters can be,” Mary wrote in her 2006 memoir, Now It’s My Turn. Then, in 2013, after Liz skipped Mary and Heather’s 2012 wedding and said she disagreed with her sister on same-sex marriage, Mary wrote on Facebook that Liz’s politics “treat my family as second-class citizens.”
In 2021, Liz finally admitted she had been wrong in opposing same-sex marriage.
Applause for her political future
Fast forward to today, and her political future is uncertain. But one thing is sure—her mission this year is to prevent a second Trump administration from coming to fruition, she told the applauding Pasadena audience. January 6 was the turning point in her political journey.
In Pasadena, Cheney outlined Trump’s “multi-part plan that Trump oversaw to attempt to overturn the  election and seize power” through pressuring state legislatures to flip votes from Biden to Trump, illegally corrupting the Justice Department and summoning a mob—which he knew was armed and angry—to attack the Capitol and prevent Congress from counting the electoral votes. The mob specifically targeted Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence.
“This is depravity. We must never, as Americans, become numb to it.”Liz Cheney
Cheney said that according to people who were in the White House with Trump that day, when told that Pence had been rushed to a secure location, Trump said, “So what?” When told, the mob was shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!” Trump said that was “just common sense.”
“This is depravity,” Cheney said. “We must never, as Americans, become numb to it.”
Compare 2020-2021 to 2000-2001, when Vice President Al Gore conceded the closest presidential election in U.S. history after a controversial Supreme Court decision.
“I remember sitting on the inaugural platform on the west front of the Capitol on January 20, 2001, watching my dad [Vice President Cheney] and President [George W.] Bush take the oath of office and feeling a sense of real pride, as an American, that we were experiencing the peaceful transfer of power,” Liz Cheney said. “What a tremendous thing that was. Without that peaceful transfer of power, we aren’t a republic. Without it, force and violence determine who rules and governs our nation. We had a peaceful transfer of power for every single president until Trump. This breach is something that we can’t look away from and can’t ignore.”
“Without that peaceful transfer of power, we aren’t a republic.”Liz Cheney
Cheney said Trump is currently trying to scare people into silence to suppress evidence and testimony in his criminal trials before the election through “tactics of threats and intimidation that we’ve seen authoritarians use around the world.”
But it’s not all Trump’s fault, she said. He needs—and has—enablers.
“Authoritarians cannot succeed alone,” she added. “They need people who will enable them, who will help to spread their lies. Trump needs good people to be silent. He wants to make sure people won’t step up and try to stop it. One of the terrifying lessons in this period since January 6 has been just how many elected Republicans are willing to make themselves hostage to this dangerous man. I say that to you as someone who has been a lifelong Republican. It is terrifying when you think about how many people are willing to put their own political power ahead of their duty and responsibility.”
With Trump increasingly looking like the presumptive Republican nominee, Cheney worries that the United States could face another January 6-type attack if the election doesn’t go his way. She believes House Republicans will reject electors again after the 2024 election.
She’s heard Republicans say, “It won’t be so bad if we elect him again.” To that, the Pasadena crowd loudly groaned.
“That is not the rule of law—that’s tyranny,” she said. “Congress can’t steal power from the people and decide that they’re going to install in the presidency the candidate of their choice. That’s fundamentally counter to the Constitution, to our system of government. And yet, that’s what they were doing. And that’s what they will do again.”
She’s heard Republicans say, “It won’t be so bad if we elect him again.” To that, the Pasadena crowd loudly groaned.
It’s naive to believe Republicans will stand up to Trump when he’s back in office. As a current example, she pointed out that right now, there’s a very rare bipartisan agreement on border security and Ukraine aid in the Senate, but House Republicans refuse to agree to it because Trump told them not to.
“Trump would rather have the crisis that he can run on as a political issue, and the Republicans in Congress are going along with him,” she said. “That should tell you all you need to know about whether you can count on them to stand up to Trump in the second term—they won’t even stand up to him before he’s the nominee.”
Will the courts help?
She also hears Republicans saying the courts will control Trump’s worst impulses. She said court rulings only work when the executive branch enforces them. Republicans also say there will be responsible officials in a second Trump administration. To that, the Pasadena crowd again loudly groaned and laughed.
“We must work together to make sure Trump is never near the Oval Office again.”Liz Cheney
“Think about what he could do with somebody like General Mike Flynn, who said Trump should deploy the military to seize ballot boxes and rerun the election in swing states,” she said. “We must work together to make sure Trump is never near the Oval Office again.” The crowd cheered.
She urged the audience not to sit this election out but to get active and engaged. She recommended volunteering for campaigns, writing letters to editors, calling members of Congress with messages of support and running for office—especially women.
“I fully understand that our politics is too toxic, messy and painful, but none of us can be bystanders in a republic,” she said. “We all have an obligation. I know the vast majority of us want our kids and grandkids to grow up in freedom. That means all of us have to make sure, when history looks back at this period, when this time of testing came for all of us, that we’re going to be able to say, ‘We did what was right, we stood for truth and we prevailed, because we loved our country.’”
Psyop Taylor Swift
Speaking of toxicity, Cheney also touched on the conspiracy in right-wing media circles that Democrats and the Pentagon are working with the NFL to fix the Super Bowl, so the Kansas City Chiefs will win so that the team’s tight end Travis Kelce can take the field with his girlfriend Taylor Swift to announce Swift’s endorsement of President Biden’s re-election.
The same day as her speech in Pasadena, January 31, Cheney tweeted, “Taylor Swift is a national treasure.” She was amazed watching the “level of crazy” in response to her tweet.
“There are MAGA folks suggesting that I’m part of some kind of psyop (psychological operation),” she said. “The reason I tweeted it was because of the attacks on her by conservatives. Fox News is running these whole segments criticizing or attacking her. She has an amazing story, what she’s done in terms of taking back her music. The idea that somehow the latest far-right conspiracy theory requires that we attack Taylor Swift is ridiculous.”
Maggie McKay, a news anchor who interviewed Cheney for part of the event, asked about the source of Cheney’s courage.
“I don’t think of it as courage, I really do see it as duty,” Cheney replied. “It never seemed to me that there was an alternative. It’s a hard question for me to answer because I’m just stunned and surprised that it hasn’t been an obvious path for so many of my colleagues.”
“Trump is the world’s best con man.”Liz Cheney
For example, she said if Trump’s impeachment vote had been a secret ballot, it would have been nearly unanimous among Republicans.
“Trump is the world’s best con man,” she said. “He got good, honest people to believe this lie. He betrayed people.”
McKay asked if the Republican Party is salvageable. Cheney responded, “It depends on what happens in the 2024 election. [Right now] it’s a cult of personality. And it involves the leadership of the party in a way that I think will make it very difficult to come back. It may be that we have to start something new once we get through 2024. But the country has got to have two strong parties that can debate substance and issues and come to agreement. We can’t function if one of the parties has pledged loyalty to Trump instead of the Constitution.”
Cheney was inevitably asked if she would consider running for president.
“I would consider it,” she said. “I’m not making announcements tonight. I’m very focused on defeating Donald Trump.”
McKay asked how Cheney would vote if a legitimate Republican ran for president. Cheney said she wasn’t endorsing Nikki Haley or anybody else, but she thinks it’s good that Haley is staying in the race against Trump.
“Obviously, I’m never going to vote for Trump,” Cheney said. “We’ll have to see what happens.”