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Riot on Capitol Hill: Not prosecuting Trump for Jan. 6 would fuel ‘much bigger threat’, says Liz Cheney

The Justice Department should not avoid prosecuting Donald Trump in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack if prosecution is warranted, Rep. Liz Cheney said in an interview with “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. from ABC News.

Although bringing charges against the former president – who could challenge President Joe Biden in 2024 – would be unprecedented and “difficult” for the country, not doing so would support a “much more serious constitutional threat”, said Cheney Wednesday in an interview at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that aired Sunday on “This Week.”

“Are you worried about what it means for the country, to see a former president sued? A former president who was a likely candidate; who might actually run for president against Biden?” Karl asked Cheney.

“I think it’s a much bigger constitutional threat if a president can engage in this kind of activity, and the majority of the president’s party looks the other way; or we, as a country, decide that we we’re not really going to take our constitutional obligations seriously,” Cheney said. “I think it’s a much, much more serious threat.”

“I really believe that we have to make these decisions, as difficult as they are, outside of politics. We really have to think about it from the point of view: what does this mean for the country?” she says.

‘Absolutely confident’ in Hutchinson’s testimony

The Wyoming Republican told Karl she was “absolutely confident” in Cassidy Hutchinson’s startling testimony last week during a Jan. 6 surprise hearing by the House committee, of which Cheney is vice-chairman.

“She’s an incredibly brave young woman,” Cheney said of Hutchinson.

On Tuesday, former assistant to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said she was told Trump was verbally aggressive with Secret Service agents and rushed behind the wheel of his vehicle after learning he was not going to the Capitol after his rally on January 6, 2021.

Hutchinson said Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent and Trump’s deputy chief of staff, told him the same thing shortly after the same day incident. Hutchinson’s account drew considerable attention and pushback from Trump.

“What Ms. Hutchinson testified to was a conversation that she was part of with Mr. Ornato and at which Mr. Engel, a Secret Service agent, was present, where they detailed what happened in the limo,” said Cheney said.

“Do you have any evidence other than Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to corroborate what she said happened in that presidential motorcade?” Karl asked Cheney.

“The committee has significant evidence on a whole range of issues, including the president’s intense anger,” Cheney replied.

“I think you will continue to see in the days and weeks to come additional details about the President’s activities and behavior that day,” Cheney added.

In a statement to ABC News, the Secret Service said the agents were prepared to testify under oath before the panel. A source close to the Secret Service did not dispute to ABC News that Trump was angry with the officers in the car, but said he did not reach out to get behind the wheel or rush Robert Engel, the principal agent of its detail.

Hutchinson also claimed that Trump knew his supporters were armed on Jan. 6 before a march on Capitol Hill.

Trump on Tuesday took pains to dismiss and downplay Hutchinson’s testimony, posting on social media that “I barely know who this person…is, other than I’ve heard very negative things about him ( a total fake and ‘leaker’).”

“She’s bad news!” he added.

Speaking to Karl, Cheney said the House committee “is not going to sit idly by and watch her [Hutchinson’s] character be assassinated by anonymous sources and by men claiming executive privilege. And so we look forward to further sworn testimony on a whole range of issues.”

Criminal referral for witness tampering?

Cheney said during the hearing last week that some witnesses told investigators that Trump aides tried to influence their testimony before the panel. Hutchinson was among those who received messages about protecting the former president, sources later told ABC News.

“Witness tampering is a crime. Are you making a criminal reference to the DOJ on this?” Karl asked.

“We’ll make a decision as a committee on that,” Cheney replied.

“Do you have any doubt that Trump broke the law and is guilty of any criminal offences?” Karl asked Cheney. (Trump insists he did nothing wrong.) “It’s a decision we’ll make together as a committee,” Cheney said of any potential criminal conduct at the Justice Department.

“There is no doubt that he has engaged in serious crimes and misdemeanors. I think there is no doubt that this is the most serious betrayal of his oath of office by any president in history. of the nation. This is the most dangerous behavior of any president in the history of the nation,” she said.

“Is it possible that there is a criminal reference?” Karl asked.

“Yes,” Cheney said, adding that the Justice Department “does not have to wait” for the panel to make a referral and for the committee to issue “more than one criminal referral.”

Damaging Trump ‘isn’t the goal’ of hearings

Cheney has become perhaps her party’s most vocal and famous anti-Trump voice, drawing praise from Democrats and derision from many conservatives. Last year, she told ABC News she would “do everything I can to ensure that ‘Trump’ never comes near the Oval Office again.”

“Have these auditions brought you any closer to that goal — making him a toxic, unviable candidate?” Karl asked in the new interview.

“That’s not the purpose of the hearings,” she said.

“It’s crucial for the country to make sure it’s never near the Oval Office again,” Cheney continued.

“The purpose of the hearings is to make sure the American people understand what happened, to help inform the legislation, the legislative changes that we might need to make,” she said. “I think it’s also the case that there’s not a single thing I’ve learned, because we’ve been involved in this investigation, which has made me less worried.”

“There is no doubt: a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office again,” Cheney said.

With primary looming, Cheney ‘has no intention of losing’

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in 2021 for inciting the Capitol riot. Of that group, four are not running for re-election, and Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina was defeated in his May primary by a Trump-endorsed opponent.

Cheney will face Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman in early August. The former president won a larger vote share in Wyoming in 2020 than in any other state.

“You said recently that the country is now in a battle: we have to win against the former president who is trying to unravel our constitutional republic. What will it mean for that battle if you lose the Republican primary in Wyoming? ?” Karl asked Cheney.

“Well, I have no intention of losing the Republican primary in Wyoming,” Cheney said.

“How important is it that you win, for this bigger battle?” Karl asked.

“I think it’s important because I’ll be the best representative the people of Wyoming can have,” Cheney said.

“The most important thing is to protect the nation from Donald Trump. And I think that matters to us as Americans more than anything else, and that’s why my work on the committee is so important,” she said.

“It’s so important not to just sweep that past away and say, ‘Okay, well, that’s in the past,’ but it indicates whether that sort of toxin of Trump’s belief that he can put himself above the Constitution and put ourselves above the law – – whether or not we succeed in defeating this. And I think it’s very important that people know the truth. And that there are consequences “, Cheney said.

Cheney thinks the GOP ‘can’t survive’ a 2024 Trump bid

Cheney said the Republican Party “cannot survive” if the former president runs for the White House again and wins the GOP nomination for 2024.

“I don’t think he can be the party’s nominee. And I don’t think the party would survive that,” Cheney said. “I believe in the party, and I believe in what the party can be and what the party can stand for. And I’m not ready to give that up.”

“Those of us who believe in Republican principles and ideals have a responsibility to try to bring the party back to what it can be, and to reject and reject so much toxin and vitriol,” he said. she adds.

“I think it’s also important to remember that millions of people, millions of Republicans have been betrayed by Donald Trump. And that’s a really painful thing to recognize and admit,” she said. .

“But that’s absolutely the case and they’ve been betrayed by him, by the ‘big lie’ – referring to Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud – ‘and by what he continues to do and say for tearing our country apart and tearing our party apart, and I think we have to reject that,” Cheney said.

She said she hasn’t “made a decision” about running for president in 2024.

“I’m obviously very focused on my re-election. I’m very focused on the January 6 committee,” she said, with public hearings set to resume later this month. “I’m very focused on my obligations to do the job I have now. And I’ll make a decision around 24.”

“But I think about it less in terms of deciding to run for office and more as an American — and as someone who’s in a position of public trust now — how do I make sure I’m doing everything Can I do the right thing, do what I know is good for the country and protect our Constitution?”

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