WASHINGTON — After Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was ousted from House GOP leadership, she expressed dismay about how fellow Republicans who criticized former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol now embrace his “big lie” about the 2020 presidential election.
“It's a scary thing,” Cheney said in an exclusive interview with NBC’s “TODAY” co-host Savannah Guthrie when asked how Republicans who chose not to remove her from leadership in February supported doing so on Wednesday.
“For reasons that I don't understand, leaders in my party have decided to embrace the former president who launched that attack,” Cheney said in the interview, which aired Thursday. “And I think you've watched over the course of the last several months, the former president get more aggressive, more vocal, pushing the lie.”
See Savannah Guthrie’s extended exclusive interview with Liz CheneyMay 13, 202139:04
Trump misled and betrayed millions of people in claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen, said Cheney, who added that the decision by Republican leaders to promote that lie is “really dangerous.” That includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who she said has not provided "courageous leadership."
Cheney was unfazed, however, by her GOP colleagues’ decision to remove her as chair of the House Republican Conference and vowed to help restore the party. She said that she has an obligation to speak out against the lie, because, she said, “it’s an ongoing threat” and “silence is not an option.”
Asked three times if she would consider running for president in 2024, Cheney dodged the question but did not rule out a White House bid.
“Right now I am very focused on making sure that our party becomes again a party that stands for truth and stands for fundamental principles that are conservative,” said Cheney, who said that Trump “must not ever again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.”
Cheney said Trump is clearly responsible for the Jan. 6 riot and said that the Department of Justice should include the former president in its investigation of what unfolded.
”I think the American people have to know” what happened that day, Cheney said, “And certainly any president who did what we know this former president did has got to be investigated criminally.”
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Chency, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said this moment is the beginning of the fight to define the Republican Party.
“This is the, I think, opening salvo in that battle,” she said. “And it's a battle we have to win because it's not just about the Republican Party, it's about the country.”
Guthrie noted that Trump’s political team is actively searching for a Republican candidate to challenge Cheney in a primary next year.
Asked to respond to that threat, Cheney said, “You know — bring it on.”
House Republicans removed Cheney from the No. 3 in their conference during a quick voice vote Wednesday behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. Republicans had planned to vote using a secret ballot, but decided instead to conduct a voice vote, making it impossible to know how many in her caucus supported her removal.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is the favorite to replace Cheney, and House Republicans will take a vote on electing her on Friday.