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Democrats name Liz Cheney vice chair of panel investigating Capitol riot

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) listens to testimony during a House committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
(Jim Bourg / Pool photo)

House Democrats have promoted Rep. Liz Cheney to vice chair of a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, placing the Wyoming Republican in a leadership spot on the panel as some members of her party’s caucus threaten to oust her for participating.

Cheney, a fierce critic of former President Trump, has remained defiant amid the criticism from her own party, insisting that Congress must probe the Capitol attack, in which hundreds of Trump supporters violently pushed past police, broke into the building and interrupted the certification of President Biden’s election victory.

“We owe it to the American people to investigate everything that led up to, and transpired on, January 6th,” Cheney said in a statement as Democrats announced her promotion Thursday. “We will not be deterred by threats or attempted obstruction and we will not rest until our task is complete.”

Cheney’s appointment as vice chair comes amid an effort by some Republicans to expel her and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois from the GOP conference because they accepted their appointments to the panel from the Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. A draft letter by Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) obtained by the Associated Press calls Cheney and Kinzinger “two spies for the Democrats” whom Republicans cannot trust to attend their private meetings.

Cheney, who was booted from her position as GOP conference chair earlier this year, has been undeterred by the criticism, despite serious primary challenges back home. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney has formed an unlikely alliance with Pelosi in what she has framed as an existential fight for the Republican Party and for democracy itself.

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“Every member of this committee is dedicated to conducting a nonpartisan, professional, and thorough investigation of all the relevant facts regarding January 6th and the threat to our Constitution we faced that day,” Cheney said in the statement. “I have accepted the position of vice chair of the committee to assure that we achieve that goal.”

Far-right groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend a rally this month at the U.S. Capitol in support of people charged in January’s insurrection.

As the committee has met privately, Cheney has worked closely with Democrats in determining the direction of the probe. The committee’s chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, said in the statement announcing Cheney’s appointment that Democrats are “fortunate to have a partner of such strength and courage” and that Cheney’s insights have shaped the early work of the panel.

Cheney “has demonstrated again and again her commitment to getting answers about January 6th, ensuring accountability, and doing whatever it takes to protect democracy for the American people,” Thompson said.

The vice chair position, usually reserved for a member of the majority party, gives Cheney a top role on the panel after McCarthy decided not to name any of his fellow Republicans to the committee. McCarthy initially chose five Republicans to serve on the panel, but then pulled all five after Pelosi rejected two of them. He has harshly criticized Cheney and Kinzinger for participating at her request. His office did not respond to a request for comment about Biggs’ letter.

The committee’s work is just getting started and could last months or years. Thompson issued broad requests for information last week to law enforcement agencies and social media companies about the planning of the insurrection, and this week he asked technology and telecommunications platforms to preserve personal communications surrounding the attack.

A House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot has asked telecom and social media companies to preserve personal communication records.

In July, the panel held an emotional first hearing with four police officers who battled the insurrectionists and were injured and verbally abused as the rioters broke into the building and repeated Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud.

At the hearing, Cheney expressed to the officers “deep gratitude for what you did to save us” and defended her decision to accept an appointment on the committee.

“The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed for every American, is this,” she said then. “Will we adhere to the rule of law, respect the rulings of our courts, and preserve the peaceful transition of power?”


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