Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third-ranking House Republican, said Tuesday that she would vote to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
“What we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President.”
Cheney is the second House Republican to vow to follow Democrats in impeaching Trump after Rep. John Katko (R-NY) said he would earlier Tuesday. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) announced he would vote to impeach Trump shortly after Cheney did. A fourth House Republican, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), announced late Tuesday that he would vote in favor of impeachment as well.
All but six of the House’s 222 Democratic lawmakers have committed to voting to remove Trump and ban him from running for federal office ever again. If articles of impeachment pass in the House during a Wednesday vote—which is expected—the Senate must hold a trial and vote to convict. They may do so even after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Earlier in the day, Trump defended his conduct during the insurrection and denied any personal responsibility for his supporters’ actions. It was his first public appearance since the disastrous events in the Capitol.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate. I want no violence,” he said. “For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our county and it’s causing tremendous anger.”
Cheney disagreed with Trump’s defense, saying, “The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.”
The Wyoming Republican is the first member of Republican Party leadership, either in the House or Senate, to publicly back Trump’s impeachment. Her announcement comes as the House minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), increasingly seeks to distance himself from his rock-solid ally of the last four years—though he has come out against impeaching him—and as The New York Times reported that the Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has told associates he is pleased that Trump is being impeached.
After Cheney’s arrival in the House in 2017, she proved to be one of the few GOP elected officials with the ability to criticize Trump and then avoid his wrath. But even as she voiced her displeasure with the president’s tone and some of his decisions on national security, she also zealously defended him during his 2019 impeachment and has been a reliable vote for his agenda.
A Cheney ally, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), told The Daily Beast in June 2020 that she has “figured out, like a few others have, that you can disagree with the president and he can at times respect it and uniquely listen to your point of view.”
But that balancing act fell apart at the same time the Trump presidency did. Three weeks after the 2020 election, Cheney—who rejected the election fraud conspiracies her colleagues advanced—called on Trump to prove his unfounded claims or else allow the transition to Biden’s administration to proceed.
At the Jan. 6 rally outside the White House that preceded the violence at the Capitol, an unhinged Trump went after Cheney in his harshest terms yet. “The Liz Cheneys of the world,” he said from the stage, “we have to get rid of them.”
In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, Cheney was among the most prominent Republicans to explicitly blame Trump for what had happened. “We just had a violent mob assault the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent us from carrying out our constitutional duty,” said Cheney on Thursday. “There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
In recent days, some House Republicans anticipated that Cheney, who is thought of as a future leader of the conference or even the GOP’s first female speaker, might finally make a full break with Trump. That she backed impeachment was a relief to some. “I appreciate her leadership,” one House GOP aide told The Daily Beast. “At least someone’s showing some.”
The question now is whether Cheney brings any more House Republicans with her. Congressional insiders believe a handful of GOP lawmakers will vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday but expect the number to be far smaller than the roughly 60 who joined Democrats to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 7.
Cheney, meanwhile, could face serious heat back home for her vote and may very well draw a primary challenger. In no state was Trump’s 2020 vote share higher than in Wyoming.
Moments before the mob of extremists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump told them to “fight like hell” against the certification of Biden as president.
“And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you… We are going to the Capitol,” he said in a speech on the National Mall that preceded the takeover.
Trump has not condemned the insurrection attempt, instead saying to his supporters who were in the Capitol, “We love you” and “you’re very special.”
It was Vice President Mike Pence who dispatched federal authorities to halt the Capitol takeover. Trump initially resisted disrupting the attack, reportedly happy his supporters were fighting so hard to disrupt the certification of the November election results.
Federal authorities have said they warned lawmakers and Capitol Police of the potential for violence on Jan. 6 months in advance, calling into question why law enforcement seemed so ill-prepared for the attack. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer.