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Liz Cheney calls on GOP to stop 'embracing' Trump ahead of Senate impeachment trial

"This is not something that we can simply look past or pretend didn't happen or try and move on," she said.
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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., at a news conference in Washington on Dec. 10.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., called on her colleagues to cut off former President Donald Trump as his second Senate impeachment trial is set to begin this week.

Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump last month for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Cheney was censured by her state party over the vote, and she faces a primary challenge, although she easily won a vote of confidence last week to remain chair of the House Republican Conference.

"We have to take a really hard look at who we are and what we stand for, what we believe in," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think that when you look at both [Trump's] actions leading up to Jan. 6, that he was impeached in a bipartisan fashion, the fact that he lost the presidency, the fact that we lost the Senate. We have to be in a position where we can say we stand for principles, for ideals.

"We should not be embracing the former president," she added.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida, late last month, and he has since softened his language about Trump's role in the riot.

Details are still in flux with the trial set to begin this week. Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Sunday that Schumer will "of course" accommodate a request from one of Trump's attorneys, David Schoen, that the trial not proceed during the Jewish Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Most Senate Republicans backed an effort last month to declare the trial unconstitutional, signaling that they are unlikely to vote to convict Trump. But Cheney said that in terms of accountability, the Senate trial "is a snapshot."

"There's a massive criminal investigation underway. There will be a massive criminal investigation of everything that happened on Jan. 6 and in the days before," Cheney said. "People will want to know exactly what the president was doing. They will want to know, for example, whether the tweet that he sent out calling Vice President Pence a coward while the attack was underway, whether that tweet, for example, was a premeditated effort to provoke violence.

"There are a lot of questions that have to be answered, and there will be many, many criminal investigations looking at every aspect of this and everyone who was involved, as there should be," she said, adding, "We have never seen that kind of an assault by a president of the United States on another branch of government, and that can never happen again."

Cheney said that if she were a senator, she would weigh the evidence and the arguments before reaching a conclusion, but she said what is already known is worthy of impeachment.

"What we already know does constitute the greatest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country," she said. "And this is not something that we can simply look past or pretend didn't happen or try and move on. We've got to make sure this never happens again."

Senate Republicans continued to express doubt Sunday that the Senate would convict Trump.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said that while he believes the trial is constitutional, a conviction is "very unlikely," and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CBS News' "Face the Nation": "The outcome is really not in doubt."

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said on ABC News' "This Week" that he believes Trump should not be convicted because "the Constitution does not anticipate the impeachment trial of a former president."

Asked whether he thinks presidents should be held accountable for their conduct, Wicker said, "If being held accountable means being impeached by the House and being convicted by the Senate, the answer to that is no."

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said in an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press" that he believes the House "did an incredibly poor job of building a case before their impeachment vote."

Cheney said much of the pushback she has faced since she voted for impeachment is a result of misinformation.

"They believe that [Black Lives Matter] and antifa were behind what happened here at Capitol," she said of the state party leaders who voted to censure her. "That's just simply not the case. It's not true, and we're going to have a lot of work we have to do. People have been lied to.

"The extent to which the president, President Trump, for months leading up to Jan. 6 spread the notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie, and people need to understand that," she continued. "We need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth and that we're being honest about what really did happen in 2020 so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024."