Liz Cheney says Donald Trump's 'dictator' remark should be taken 'literally and seriously'

Cheney spoke with ABC's Jonathan Karl for "This Week."

December 8, 2023, 7:05 PM

Former GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who is warning about the potential dangers of a second Donald Trump presidency, said Americans should take his recent dictator remark "literally and seriously."

Trump raised alarms earlier this week when he declined to flat out reassure the public that he wouldn't abuse power if he is elected, instead telling Fox News host Sean Hannity he wouldn't be a dictator "except on Day One."

Some Republicans have suggested Trump was making a joke but Cheney -- who had a lead role in investigating his actions after the 2020 election and on Jan. 6, 2021 -- disagreed.

"I think we have to take everything that Donald Trump says literally and seriously," Cheney said in an interview with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl, which will air Sunday on "This Week."

"And I think that we saw, frankly, what he was willing to do already after the 2020 election in the lead up to Jan. 6, after Jan 6," she continued. "People need to remember that when Donald Trump woke up on the morning of Jan. 6, he thought he was going to remain as president. And we saw the extent to which he was willing to attempt to seize power when he lost an election."

Cheney called it "wishful thinking" to believe that Trump would "now abide by the rulings of the courts or be stopped by the guardrails of our democracy."

ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl interviews former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Al Drago/ABC

It cost Cheney her congressional career to take on Trump, who she's characterized as an existential threat to American democracy and perhaps the "most dangerous" person to ever occupy the Oval Office. Trump, hitting back in social media posts this week, called her comments "unhinged" and said she is suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

Cheney's time as vice chair of the House Jan. 6 Committee, which recommended Trump be criminally charged for inciting an insurrection and other violations, defined her final days in Washington before she was defeated by a Republican challenger backed by the former president.

Her mission now, she's said, is to ensure Trump doesn't return to the White House. To do that, she is trying to make the case Trump would be "worse" the second time around.

"It would be worse because he has had practice and because those people who were around him who actually did stop the worst, that what he was trying to do would not be around him again," she told Karl. "I mean, our institutions don't protect themselves. It's the people who do."

ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl interviews former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Al Drago/ABC

Cheney suggested Trump, if he wins the presidency, would lean on those in his orbit who in the past advocated for usurping institutional norms using martial law -- like former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who in December 2020 said Trump could deploy the military to "rerun" the presidential election.

"People like [former Trump political adviser] Steve Bannon, [former Trump Pentagon official] Kash Patel, sort of, you know, the craziest and least stable of the people that are around Donald Trump, those are the people that he will put into the most important, highest offices in the land," she said.

You can watch more of Jonathan Karl's interview with Liz Cheney this Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.

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