Rep. Liz Cheney said Tuesday she will vote to impeach President Donald Trump following last week’s attack at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the president.
In a statement, Cheney said the president incited the mob that attacked the Capitol on Wednesday. Afterward, he could have “immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” but didn’t, she said.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.
Cheney becomes the highest-profile Republican to announce that she would support impeachment. She is the third-ranking Republican in the House.
Cheney has sided with Trump in the vast majority of her votes during his presidency. Still, she has publicly broken with Trump in numerous instances in the past — never more prominently than last week, when she vehemently condemned Trump’s role in the Capitol riot, calling it “a part of his legacy.”
“Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough,” she said in her statement Tuesday. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President.”
The lawmaker, who was elected in 2016, had previously criticized the president for failing to produce evidence to back his claims of widespread voter fraud.
Trump had struck back at Cheney after her comments ahead of last week’s congressional certification of the Electoral Vote. In his speech before the riot began, Trump called on his supporters to “get rid of the weak congress people” who declined to back his baseless allegations of rampant voter fraud.
“The Liz Cheneys of the world. We have to get rid of them,” Trump said, while encouraging primary challenges against Republicans who opposed him.
Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, also condemned the president’s attempts to overturn the election, joining all other living former defense secretaries in a Washington Post op-ed cautioning against military action in support of Trump’s efforts.
Liz Cheney was the member of Wyoming’s delegation most vocally opposed to protesting the results of the Electoral College. Sen. John Barrasso also voted to certify the votes but was not as outspoken about the situation. Newly elected Sen. Cynthia Lummis was one of eight senators who voted not to certify Pennsylvania’s results, though she did vote in favor of certifying Arizona’s.
In a statement, Lummis told the Star-Tribune she opposed impeaching the president.
“We will witness, once again, the peaceful transition of power on January 20th,” Lummis said in a written statement on Tuesday. “Moving forward with impeachment at this juncture will only further divide our already hurting nation. I respect the right of all of my colleagues to vote their conscience, but we need to calm the rhetoric and start finding ways to work together as Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the most pressing issues we face today.”
The Star-Tribune also reached out to Barrasso for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Trump conceded the election on Thursday, saying that President-elect Joe Biden’s “administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and that his “focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
The president, however, has since defended his speech at the rally that preceded the siege of the Capitol.
Meanwhile, fellow House Republicans John Katko of New York and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois backed Cheney’s position. Both issued statements supporting the impeachment of the president on Tuesday.
The New York Times has reported that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell “believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses” and “is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party,” citing “people familiar with his thinking.”
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, called the decision by high-profile Republicans to support the impeachment of the president “shocking.” But the insurrection at the Capitol last week likely threw Republicans over the edge, he said.
Tobias anticipates more Republicans will follow suit.
“I think the breach (of the party) has been made, just like they breached the Capitol,” he said.
“I think (the insurrection) has really fractured the Republican party and the party reflects that,” he added.
When the House of Representatives voted in December 2019 to impeach Trump the first time, a 230-197-1 decision passed the abuse of power article and a 229-198-1 vote decided the obstruction of Congress article. No Republicans voted in favor of either. Democrats now control the House of Representatives by a slimmer majority: 222 to 212.
Tobias anticipates more Republicans will support the latest article of impeachment. Not only is the allegation easier for the public to understand, it also hits closer to home.
Five House Democrats voted in 1998 to impeach Democratic President Bill Clinton, the most recent president to be impeached before Trump. Like Trump, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.
Star-Tribune staff writer Nick Reynolds and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photos: Scenes of violence at U.S. Capitol shock world