Cheney emphasized that the committee’s goals are not political, but that the Justice Department should not refrain from prosecuting Trump when the evidence warrants a prosecution, out of concern for political optics.
“I think it’s a much more serious constitutional threat when a president can engage in such activities and the majority of the president’s party looks the other way or we as a country decide that we’re not going to take our constitutional obligations seriously,” Cheney said.
Cheney continued to express serious concern about the idea of Trump running as the GOP presidential nominee for a third time.
“I think there’s no question, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never come near the Oval Office again,” Cheney said.
The Republican Party, she said, could not survive if Trump were its 2024 presidential nominee.
“Millions of people, millions of Republicans, have been betrayed by Donald Trump. And realizing that and admitting that is really painful for people, but it absolutely is,” Cheney said. “And they were betrayed by him, by the big lie and by what he continues to do and say to tear our country and our party apart.”
The interview was Cheney’s first since the committee held public hearings on Jan. 6, and it came days after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, made a bombastic statement about Trump’s actions — and inaction — on the day of the bombshell had the attack on the Capitol.
Hutchinson testified last week that Trump knew some of his supporters were armed but urged them to march on the Capitol anyway and was reportedly indifferent to mob threats to hang Vice President Mike Pence.
“What kind of man knows a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol, and further incites that mob when his own vice president is threatened? When Congress is in danger?” Cheney said. “It’s very frightening.”
Trump and his allies have since tried to discredit Hutchinson, but Cheney said she was “absolutely confident” about the former White House staffer’s testimony. Hutchinson also testified last week that Trump was “angry” when he was told he would not be able to travel to the Capitol with his supporters after his speech on the Ellipse, and was told Trump was internally angry at his Security detail overturned the presidential limousine.
When asked if the committee had additional evidence to support Hutchinson’s testimony, Cheney said the committee had “significant evidence on a whole range of issues, including the president’s intense anger” in the presidential limousine. Cheney specifically suggested that anyone who denies Hutchinson’s version of events should also testify under oath before the committee.
“What Cassidy Hutchinson did was an incredible example of bravery and courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure,” Cheney said. “The committee will not stand by while her character is murdered by anonymous sources and by men who claim executive branch privilege.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), the only other GOP member on the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN’s State of the Union that witnesses have come forward since the hearings began, including since Hutchinson testified.
“I don’t want to go into who or any details,” said Kinzinger. “Every day new people come up and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t think this part of a story I knew might be important.’”
The Jan. 6 committee had already interviewed two people who were in the president’s limousine at the time of Trump’s reported outburst: Robert Engel, former head of Trump’s intelligence detail, and Anthony Ornato, who coordinated physical security at the White House.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee, said Ornato’s recollection “does not appear to be as accurate” as Hutchinson’s, but hesitated when asked whether Ornato had given his testimony before the committee under oath.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), another member of the Jan. 6 committee, said Sunday that he could not go into detail about what Engel and Ornato previously shared with the committee, but that the committee members did would be interested in having the two men return to “shed light on” what happened in the presidential limousine.
The committee, he added, is also “in talks” with attorneys for Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel whom the committee previously interviewed but wants to bring back for further testimony. Hutchinson testified last week that Cipollone warned of the legal risks for Trump if he goes to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“But most importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any argument that the President was angry that he couldn’t escort this armed mob to the Capitol,” Schiff said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “That doesn’t seem to be disputed by anyone except Donald Trump who, as we’ve seen in the past, has no credibility at all.”
Schiff said he agrees with Cheney that Trump could face multiple criminal referrals to the Justice Department and that it would do far more harm to the country if Trump weren’t investigated over fears of further political division.
Schiff warned that if the Justice Department took a position that it could not investigate or indict a former president, it would elevate Trump to being above the law.
“It’s a very dangerous idea that the founders would never have subscribed to — in the case of Donald Trump, I think even more dangerous,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump is someone who has shown that if he is not held accountable, he commits worse and worse abuses of power.”
The Jan. 6 committee continues to investigate any links between the Trump White House and far-right white nationalist groups involved in the attack on the Capitol, he said.
“Our next hearing will focus on efforts to rally this mob to the island [National] Mall: Who participated, who funded it, how was it organized, including the participation of these white nationalist groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters and others,” Schiff said. “I think we got some answers, but there’s a lot we don’t know yet that we’re going to find out.”
Nick Miroff contributed to this report.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/07/03/jan6-trump-criminal-referrals-cheney/ The Jan. 6 committee could make multiple criminal referrals from Donald Trump to the Justice Department, says Rep. Liz Cheney