Liz Cheney on stopping Trump, Pence testifying on Jan. 6: 'This Week' exclusive

She sat down with ABC Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

August 21, 2022, 9:00 AM

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, once a rising star in the Republican Party and considered a potential speaker of the House, told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl she has no regrets about her political career, including her landslide primary election loss in Wyoming on Tuesday, saying she is now laser-focused on keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.

In an exclusive wide-ranging interview for ABC's "This Week," Cheney also discussed the FBI search at the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate – calling the investigation a very serious development and saying she is "ashamed" at some of her Republican colleagues who have attacked the Justice Department and the FBI.

Cheney, who serves as vice chair of the Jan. 6 Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack -- and speaking with Karl in the committee hearing room -- also said she still hopes former Vice President Mike Pence testifies before the panel in the near future, adding that conversations with his legal team are ongoing.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Quinn Scanlan/ABC News

Cheney 'ashamed' at Republican colleagues' reaction to Mar-a-Lago search

During her sit-down interview with ABC's Karl, Cheney weighed in on the FBI's search executed at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month and said she was ashamed that congressional Republicans had leapt to Trump's defense and had accused the Justice Department of political malice.

"That's a very serious thing. I think that when you think about the fact that we were in a position where the FBI, the Department of Justice, felt the need to execute a search warrant at the home of a former president -- that's a really serious thing for the nation," she said.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
ABC News

The redacted copy of the search warrant released sent shockwaves through Washington, as it revealed the Justice Department was investigating the potential violation of at least three separate criminal statutes in its search of Mar a Lago, including obstruction of justice and one crime under the Espionage Act.

A property receipt accompanying the warrant shows agents seized multiple boxes of documents of various classifications, including one set referring to "classified/TS/SCI documents" (the acronym stands for top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information that not everyone with even top-secret clearance can view) and four other sets of top-secret documents.

Trump's team has yet to take court action despite publicly trying to pressure the Justice Department to release the full affidavit underlying the warrant.

Trump in recent days has called for the "immediate release" of the affidavit while leveling various attacks at the FBI and Justice Department, while also demanding over his social media website that the documents be returned to him.

Following the raid, a growing list of Republicans tweeted, with some attacking the Justice Department and the FBI, including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

He tweeted a statement that read, in part, "The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization."

"I was ashamed to hear Republicans immediately and reflexively attack the FBI agents who executed the search warrant," Cheney said.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney speaks with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl, Aug. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Quinn Scanlan/ABC News

Cheney also accused Trump of releasing the unredacted search warrant to media organizations who then posted its contents without removing the names of the agents involved. Law enforcement agencies around the country are actively monitoring growing strains of angry online rhetoric and threats that have emerged in the wake of the raid.

"I was disgusted when I learned that President Trump had released the names of those agents, when he released the unredacted search warrant, and that has now caused violence," Cheney said.

ABC News has not confirmed Cheney's claim.

"We've seen threats of violence, the judge himself, his synagogue had to cancel services because of threats of violence. This is a really dangerous moment and to see the former president of the United States, my colleagues stoking the flames of that instead of saying, 'We need to learn the facts. We need to learn the evidence we need to learn the information about what happened … I think that the American people see what hypocrisy that is and it's dangerous hypocrisy," Cheney said.

"I've seen no evidence that there was any political motivation," Cheney added, in response to some of her Republican colleagues who have accused the DOJ of that.

A magistrate judge in Florida on Thursday said, despite Justice Department objections, he may seek to unseal portions of the affidavit.

After hearing in-person arguments on a request from a coalition of media outlets to make the affidavit public, the judge said he might decide that at least a portion of the affidavit could be unsealed with government redactions.

The Justice Department had urged the judge, Bruce Reinhart, to keep the affidavit fully under seal, arguing that if it were to be made public it could "cause significant and irreparable damage" to an ongoing criminal investigation involving highly classified materials related to national security.

"I think that will provide us additional information," Cheney said. "It sounds to me from watching. The news reports that they're acting responsibly in terms of determining what has to be redacted and, and what can be released. But it also seems to be the case that there were clearly ongoing efforts to get back wherever this information was, and that it was not presented, you know, that the former president was unwilling to give back these materials. Now, we will see, we'll learn more," Cheney said.

"It's a really serious thing and I just think that for us as a party to be in a position where we're reflexively attacking career law enforcement professionals in order to defend a former president who conducted himself the way this one did, is it's really sad day for the party," Cheney said.

"Could it be that his handling of government records, classified information -- that that could be what brings Donald Trump down after all of this?" Karl asked.

"I mean, look, well, we'll see. Everyone has an obligation and a responsibility. And, you know, clearly, the handling of classified information is something that's really serious, so, I don't know all of the aspects of why the search warrant was executed, certainly. But, you know, we'll see as additional information comes out."

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice Chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers remarks during the fifth hearing, June 23, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice Chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers remarks during the fifth hearing, June 23, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Cheney hopes Pence will testify to Jan. 6 committee, possible Trump could be asked

Cheney told Karl that she hopes that former Vice President Mike Pence will testify before the Jan. 6 Select Committee in the near future.

Pence had indicated this week that he would consider testifying before the committee if he were invited to do so.

"We've been in discussions with his counsel," Cheney said.

"Look, he played a critical role on January 6, if he had succumbed to the pressure that Donald Trump was putting on him, we would have had a much worse constitutional crisis. And I think that he has clearly, as he's expressed, concerns about executive privilege, which, you know, I have tremendous respect. I think it's, it's, you know, hugely important constitutional issue in terms of separation of powers," she said.

"I believe in executive privilege. I think it matters. But I also think that when the country has been through something, as grave as this was, everyone who has information has an obligation to step forward. So, I would hope that that he will do that," Cheney said.

"So, you think we'll see him here in September in this room before the committee?" Karl asked.

"I would hope that he will understand how important it is for the American people to know every aspect of the truth about what happened that day," Cheney said.

Cheney was asked if Trump would be asked to testify and she indicated that it remains a possibility.

"I don't want to make any announcements about that this morning. So, let me just leave it there," she said.

"But it's possible you would ask him, before wrapping up, to testify?" Karl pressed.

"Yes. I mean, I don't -- again, I don't want to get in front of committee deliberations about that. I do think it's very important, as I said in the first hearing or the second hearing, you know, his interactions with our committee will be under oath," Cheney replied.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at "Politics & Eggs" at the New Hampshire Institute Politics at St. Anselm College on Aug. 17, 2022 in Manchester, N.H.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at "Politics & Eggs" at the New Hampshire Institute Politics at St. Anselm College on Aug. 17, 2022 in Manchester, N.H.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Cheney not concerned with Republican retribution

Cheney told Karl that she expects transcripts, records and other materials gathered by the committee over the course of its investigation will be made public.

"Yeah, it's all public record. It will be it will be available publicly as our investigation wraps up and concludes," Cheney said.

She said she will willingly appear if she is ever subpoenaed in the future should a Republican-led House choose to investigate members of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, which some Republicans have called for.

"If Kevin McCarthy or Jim Jordan, or any of the other individuals who are trying to investigate the committee, carry through on that threat, and issue a subpoena for me to appear, I will abide by that subpoena and I will welcome the opportunity to come and explain to them exactly what we found and the threat that Donald Trump poses to the country," Cheney said.

"And I would say, you know, they ought to do the same. They are all completely shirking their obligations and their responsibilities to come and testify about what they know. And I think, again, that's an abdication of their responsibility under the Constitution," Cheney said.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney gives a concession speech to supporters during a primary night event, Aug. 16, 2022, in Jackson, Wyo.
Rep. Liz Cheney gives a concession speech to supporters during a primary night event, Aug. 16, 2022, in Jackson, Wyo.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Cheney: 'No regrets' about political career, primary loss

"I think that it was clear, really, from the beginning -- the moment that I voted to impeach -- that there were going to be potential political consequences," Cheney told Karl of her vote to impeach Trump.

Cheney admitted that had she wanted to save her political career and her seat in the House -- a seat she has held for nearly six years -- it would have required something of her that she was unwilling to do: "[It] would have required embracing the lie about the election, would have required enabling that and I just simply wasn't willing to do that. So, you know, at each moment, I knew that I had to do what was right," Cheney said.

"And this wasn't just losing a House seat. I mean, you were considered, you were in leadership, you were considered a future Speaker of the House, maybe even the next Speaker of the House. It's a lot to give up. Any regrets?" Karl asked Cheney.

"No regrets," Cheney replied.

"I feel I feel sad about where my party is. I feel sad about the way that too many of my colleagues have responded to what I think is a great moral test and challenge of our time -- a great moment to determine whether or not people are going to stand up on behalf of the democracy, on behalf of our republic," Cheney said.

"And so, it does make me sad that so many people have failed the test, but certainly no regrets. I mean, to me, there's just never been any question about what was the right way to operate here and the right thing to do," she added.

Following her election loss Tuesday, Cheney said she received a phone call from none other than the current president: Joe Biden.

"I did hear from President Biden. We had a very, very good talk -- a talk about the importance of putting the country ahead of partisanship," she said, adding that she had also heard from some of her Republican colleagues in Congress but she did not name them.

"I think that there are a number of my colleagues who have done the right thing. I would you know, put certainly those of us who voted to impeach in that category, a number of others who expressed the view that, you know, they're supportive, they wish they would have done the right thing. And many others who, you know, have simply chosen another path," Cheney said.

Of the nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump in 2021 for his role in inciting an insurrection, Cheney said they will forever be bonded by that vote.

"I think that it is a bond. It's a bond and we've talked about it, you know, we have a difference of opinion, differences of opinion among the 10 of us about a whole range of issues of other issues, but, the fact that we all made the decision we did and have faced consequences for that decision, will be a bond I would imagine forever," she said.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump waves while walking to a vehicle in New York City on Aug. 10, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump waves while walking to a vehicle in New York City on Aug. 10, 2022.
Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

Calls large portions of Republican Party who still support Trump 'very sick'

"I think that clearly his hold is very strong among some portions of the Republican Party," Cheney said, reflecting on her primary election loss.

"I think, one, it says that people continue to believe the lie, they continue to believe what he's saying, which is very dangerous. I think it also tells you that large portions of our party, including the leadership of our party, both at the state level in Wyoming, as well as on a national level with the RNC, is very sick," Cheney said.

"We really have got to decide whether or not we're going to be a party based on substance and policy or whether we're going to remain as so many of our party are today, in the grips of a dangerous former president," she said.

Cheney doubled down on what she believes her principles are in the face of a Republican Party still in the grips of the former president and what she will continue to fight for as she considers her political future.

"What I'm fighting for is the Constitution. What I'm fighting for is the perpetuation of the Republic. What I'm fighting for is the rule of law -- the fact that everybody's got to abide by the rule of law. What I'm fighting for is the fact that elections have to matter and that when the election is over, and the courts have ruled and the electoral college is met, that the president of the United States has to respect the results of the election. What I'm fighting for is the principle that we have a peaceful transition of power, and that we don't determine who rules based upon violence," she said.

Highlights new effort to take down Trump

Cheney is hoping to turn her landslide loss in the primary into a nationwide crusade to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. She plans to launch a political organization in the coming weeks to educate the American people about ongoing threats to the country, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president.

"First of all, obviously, we have tremendous work left to do on the select committee, tremendous work left to do as Wyoming's representative in Congress. Also, I'm going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers," Cheney said.

"I think that we've got election deniers that have been nominated for really important positions all across the country. And I'm going to work against those people. I'm going to work to support their opponents. I think it matters that much," she said.

"And I'm also going to spend a lot of time doing everything I can to help educate the American people about what happened. And I think our hearings have been a tremendous contribution to that. And I think it's really important for people you know, really across the political spectrum of all ages to understand and recognize why what happened after the last election can never happen again," Cheney said.

Cheney still considering a 2024 presidential run and will likely decide after her tenure in the House is over

Cheney refused to provide further clarity on her own possible presidential run, simply saying that she is still weighing her options.

"I'm focused on this from the perspective of substance, and I really think the country faces grave threats and as I sort of go through finishing my work here in Congress over the next several months, and making a decision about how I can best help to ensure that we right our political ship, you know, I'll make decisions about what comes next," Cheney told Karl.

"You run for president because you believe you would be the best, the best candidate because you believe you'd be the best president United States. And so, any decision that I make about doing something that significant and that serious would be with the intention of winning and because I think I would be the best candidate," she said.

Asked by Karl if she would run as an independent candidate,"I'm not going to go down that path anymore in terms of speculating – today," she said with a laugh.

"I mean, look, I'm really very focused. We have a huge amount of work to do. You and I are sitting here in the Cannon Caucus room. We have a huge amount of work left to do with respect to the Select Committee, and I have really important work left to do representing Wyoming for the next several months and that that is really my focus. And I will make decisions about what comes next after that," she said.

Cheney won't support Trump in 2024, or fellow 'election deniers'

"You told me a little over a year ago, that you didn't think Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination again. You said there are millions and millions of Republicans that wouldn't let that happen. Do you still believe that? I mean, right now he looks like the overwhelming front runner," Karl asked Cheney.

"I think we have to make sure that he is not our nominee," Cheney said.

"I believe in Republican policies, I believe if you think about where the country needs to go, what's best for our nation, I believe in a strong national defense, certainly today more than ever. We need that to confront the threats we face. I believe in low taxes. I believe in limited government. I believe the family should be the center of our lives and our communities – those are traditional Republican values. And I believe that's what we need going into the future," Cheney said.

"I think that we have no chance at winning elections if we are in a position where our party has abandoned principle and abandoned value and abandoned fundamental fidelity of the Constitution in order to embrace a cult of personality. And I think that's really dangerous for a whole bunch of reasons," she said.

Cheney said Trump has created a movement that Americans must look beyond if the Republican Party is to survive.

"Donald Trump is certainly the center of the threat. And I think that you know, what he's done and what he's created is a movement on some level that is post truth. And I think that you know, certainly social media has added to that. But election denial, denying the fundamental function and principle – what is at the center of our constitutional republic is dangerous, broadly speaking, and he is certainly leading that effort, leading that movement," Cheney said.

"Because we know precisely what he will do, because he has done it, you know, sending an armed mob here to the Capitol to try to overturn the results of an election. There's just simply no way that the nation can, in my view, sustain itself if we excuse that and put him in a position of power again," Cheney said.

"I think that as a nation, whether we're Republicans or Democrats or independents, we all have to reject that," Cheney said. "And I believe that there is a coalition of people across the party spectrum, who understand we've certainly seen it on our committee. We've seen it around the country, people who understand we can agree that there are certain issues we're never going to agree on politically, but we have to come together, you know, cross those party lines, in order to protect ourselves against that kind of threat," she said.

Cheney said she would find it difficult to support a future Republican presidential candidate who has aligned his or herself with Trump, pointing to Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as examples.

"It would be very difficult," Cheney said. "I think that a fundamental question for me in terms of whether or not someone is fit to be president, is whether they've abided by their constitutional obligations in the past."

"I think certainly when you look at somebody like Josh Hawley, or somebody like Ted Cruz, both of whom know better, both of whom know exactly what the role of Congress is, in terms of our constitutional obligations with respect to presidential elections, and yet both of whom took steps that fundamentally threatened the constitutional order and structure in the aftermath of the last election. So, you know, in my view, they both have made themselves unfit for future office," she said.

"DeSantis is somebody who is right now campaigning for election deniers. And I think that, you know, that is something that we've got to have real pause about. Either you fundamentally believe in and will support our constitutional structure, or you don't," she said.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is followed by reporter as he walks to his office on Capitol Hill, Aug. 12, 2022.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is followed by reporter as he walks to his office on Capitol Hill, Aug. 12, 2022.
Susan Walsh/AP

Cheney slams McCarthy: 'He's been completely unfaithful to the Constitution'

Cheney said she will campaign against any Republican candidates who deny election results, including her colleagues in Congress like McCarthy.

McCarthy, bucking tradition, endorsed Cheney's primary challenger Harriet Hageman in Tuesday's race.

Cheney and McCarthy have had a notably strained relationship since she was booted from House leadership in 2021 over her repeated criticisms of Trump. GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York was her eventual replacement in leadership.

Karl asked Cheney, "Is the country better or worse off if Kevin McCarthy is the next speaker of the House?"

"Well, my views about Kevin McCarthy are very clear," Cheney said. "The speaker of the House is the second in line for the presidency. It requires somebody who understands and recognizes their duty, their oath, their obligation and he's been completely unfaithful to the Constitution and demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the significance and importance of the role of speaker, so I don't believe he should be speaker of the House and I think that's been very clear."

"So, it sounds like that's a yes, the country would be worse off if he were speaker?" Karl asked.

"I don't believe he should be speaker of the House," Cheney said.

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