Washington, DC – Congresswoman Liz Cheney joined NBC News’ “Meet The Press” for a wide-ranging interview with Chuck Todd this morning that touched on the upcoming midterm elections, the current state of the Republican Party, the work of the January 6th Select Committee, and more. The full interview can be seen here and key excerpts are included below:
TODD: And joining me now is Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the select committee investing January 6th. Welcome back to Meet the Press.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Great to be back with you, Chuck.
TODD: I don’t want to presume anything, but is your number one issue threats to democracy, as a voter?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: It is. I think that when you look at the extent to which we’re facing challenges now that threaten to unravel the fundamental institutions and structures of our election system and process, that is the basis and the foundation on which we can have all of these other debates. So it absolutely is the number one issue.
TODD: On the Wyoming ballot we know of at least two election deniers, the woman that defeated you in the primary and the gentleman by the name of Chuck Gray running for secretary of state. I assume they did not earn your vote.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: No, they will not. And I think no one of any party should be voting for people who are election deniers, and I think we have to be clear what it means to be an election denier. It means in the case for example of Kari Lake and Mark Finchem in Arizona, they have both said, “We’ve looked at all of the facts, we’ve looked at the results of the election in 2020, we’ve looked at the law, we’ve looked at the fact that the courts all ruled against Donald Trump, we’ve looked at the audits and the recounts. “We are willing to ignore all of that, and we are saying we would not have certified that election.” They’re telling you that they’ll only certify an election they agree with. And there’s not much graver threat to the democracy you can imagine than that–
TODD: I’m going to play for you something. You brought up Kari Lake. I want to play for you, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin was campaigning with her. He was specifically asked by my colleague Garrett Haake about your critique of Republicans that were campaign with Kari Lake. Here was his response.
GOVERNOR GLENN YOUNGKIN (CLIP): I believe that every state deserves a Republican governor and Arizona deserves another Republican governor.
TODD: A lot of Republicans in the last three weeks that I would describe as empathetic to what you’ve been doing have suddenly found themselves deciding, “Hey, party over country.” What do you make of those decisions?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: You know, I think they are really indefensible decisions. And, you know, I’ve said I think that Glenn Youngkin has done a good job as governor of Virginia, but nobody should be out advocating for the election of people who will not honor the sanctity of our elections process. And, you know, people who do that are in fact putting politics ahead of the constitution and ahead of the country.
TODD: Dan Cox is the Republican nominee in Maryland. It’s been pretty easy for Republicans to ignore him. It seems like it’s been harder for them to ignore Kari Lake in Arizona, battleground state. We’ve seen some even campaign with Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania. This whatever it takes to win, winning trumps everything, how do you blow that up in the party?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, I think you’ve got to remind people that everybody has an obligation to defend the constitution, an obligation to do what’s right. And so right now you’ve got a lot of Republicans in problem, Democrats do the same thing, it just happens that our candidates are more dangerous right now, but you have got a lot of Republicans who are saying, “You know what? I’m going to ignore the threat posed by the former president who attempted to use force to overturn an election, to stop the count of electoral votes. I’m going to ignore that. I’m going to ignore these people who embrace him. I’m going to ignore the danger, and I’m just going to focus on the near term.” Is the Republican Party going to prevail?”
TODD: Why do you think more Republicans can’t – look, I just came back from Georgia. Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, Brian Kemp, the governor, both beat back Trump challenges. Now, they didn’t use anti-Trump rhetoric to do it, but they won. And they look like they’re going to be in better shape. Why do you think other Republicans can’t look at them and say, “Oh, it’s good politics, not bad politics”–
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: You know, my hope is that ultimately our party will come back to that. I think it may take a couple of election cycles to do that. But I think, you know, people need to understand they’re not bystanders. They’re accountable for their actions. The people who are excusing and appeasing and enabling are also responsible for the impact of that and words matter. And when you support and endorse somebody who said that they only will honor results if they win, then you are responsible and accountable for that.
TODD: All right. Let’s talk about Speaker McCarthy. You clearly think this is a mistake that he will– you are concerned about his speakership. What specifically concerns you?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, look, the speaker is second in line to the presidency. And at every moment since, frankly, the aftermath of the election in 2020, when Minority Leader McCarthy has had the opportunity to do the right thing or do something that serves his own political purpose he always chooses to serve his own political purpose. And, you know, that extends to what we’ve seen just in the last few days with these comments about aid to Ukraine, the idea that somehow the party is now no longer going to support the Ukrainian people, which, you know, for somebody who has a picture of Ronald Reagan on the wall of his office in the Capitol, the notion that now Kevin McCarthy is going to make himself the leader of the pro-Putin wing of my party is just a stunning thing. It’s dangerous. He knows better. But the fact that he’s willing to go down the path of suggesting that America will no longer stand for freedom I think tells you he’s willing to sacrifice everything for his own political gain.
TODD: Do you think at all this is just gamesmanship? He just wants the Democrats to do it in the lame duck? Or do you think this is a reflection of an isolationist streak that’s actually taking hold inside the Republican Party?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: We certainly have isolationists inside our party. We have isolationists inside the Democratic Party as well. But leaders have to lead. And when you have the leader of the Republican Party suggesting that we can play with the fire of isolationism, suggesting that somehow the American people will not support the fight for freedom, which is the front lines of freedom right now happening in Ukraine in the battle between Putin and Zelenskyy, and the notion that he would be willing to embrace that, to enable it, tells you he’s just not fit for the office.
TODD: I’m going to ask you a little bit more about what’s going on. We have Iran now on the ground in Ukraine helping the Russians. At the same time, Iran sits on OPEC. Our supposed ally, Saudi Arabia, who doesn’t like Iran, is sitting here making decisions that essentially are helping the Russians, helping the Iranians, hurting the West. What should our foreign policy be to Saudi Arabia right now considering the current circumstance?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, look, I think first of all we ought to absolutely and clearly walk away from the negotiating table with the Iranians. And notion that the Iranians are now providing these drones to the Russians to use in Ukraine, if nothing else has convinced us yet to walk away from the table that should. It also tells us the Russians are having a hard time replenishing their supplies. And so the sanctions are working. We ought to do more. We ought to do more with respect to sanctions against Iran. But across the board, you know, I think that there are too many people around the world who no longer think that they can count on the United States. They no longer think that they can trust us, that we’ll stand with our friends and that we will ensure that we’re standing against our adversaries.
TODD: I hear you. The Middle East though, it looks problematic from a U.S.– I mean, some of our closest allies are kind of neutral in this war, right? Israel has been sort of neutral, kind of helping late, obviously, Saudi Arabia. How much of a problem do you view this?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, it’s a big problem, and I think it’s a problem of American leadership. We need to be doing more, faster, in terms of what we’re providing to the Ukrainians. We need to be very clear. You know, when Kevin McCarthy suggests that the Republicans are not going to support aid to Ukraine that is incredibly damaging to America’s standing in the world. It’s damaging to the effort that Ukrainians are engaged in. We need to demonstrate that the United States of America recognizes we have to be a leader in the world. We’re not going to go back to the days of isolationism, which has been a threat in this country, you know, ever since the end of World War II.
CHUCK TODD: You have said you’re going to do whatever it takes to stop Donald Trump from getting back to that Oval Office. Define whatever it takes.
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZ CHENEY: Look, there are very few certainties in politics. But one thing that you can absolutely count on is that there are tens of millions of Americans who will do everything we need to do to make sure Donald Trump is never the president again. The threat that he poses is too great. He’s demonstrated his willingness to use force to attempt to stop the peaceful transition of power. And there are simply many, many millions more Americans who, despite any party affiliation, understand how dangerous that is and will make sure he’s never in the Oval Office again.
TODD: You among politicians have had a unique experience. There was a time you were extraordinarily demonized by the left. There’s a time–
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: I don’t remember that time, Chuck (laughs)
TODD: Really? (laughs) Then you’ve been extraordinarily demonized by the right. What has that experience been like for you?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Look, I think that we have to deal with sort of the facts that are in front of us. And my view is the job that I have to do right now and that I have had to do, especially since January 6th, is so important that that really is my focus. I think that we have seen across the country, we’ve certainly seen on our committee, a coming together of people despite partisan differences and policy differences to say, “Look, the most important issues is the defense of the republic.” And we have to do that on a nonpartisan basis. I’ve been extremely disappointed and very sad by the response to the vast majority of my colleagues on the Republican side to this. I really believed growing up in the family that I grew up in that, you know, when the chips were down, people would do the right thing. And it turns out that not very many people do.
TODD: Welcome back. On Friday Donald Trump was officially subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee, ordered to turn over documents related to the insurrection by November 4th, and he’s ordered to appear before the panel by November 14th. All this came just hours after Steve Bannon, the president’s former advisor, was sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress for disobeying a similar subpoena. The sentence was stayed, pending appeal. The congresswoman is back. So let me start with the subpoena. I’ve got to start with Steve Bannon first. You’ve both successfully showed that your subpoenas were enforceable. He’s going to serve time, but he’s still not going to turn over documents, is he?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, I think Steve Bannon is one of a number of individuals who clearly have something to hide. You know, he actually, as you’ve seen, was convicted of contempt and has been sentenced to prison. Others have come in front of the committee and taken the Fifth. And I think it leaves the American people to ask, “What is it all of these people, including Donald Trump, are attempting to hide about January 6th?”
TODD: You’ve issued the subpoena. And I assume you’re going to let it play out. So what happens on November 5th if you don’t have any material from that?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: So we are anticipating that the former president will understand his legal obligation, will comply with the subpoena. We’ve made clear in the subpoena a number of things, including that if he intends to take the Fifth that he ought to alert us of that ahead of time. I would encourage everybody to go to our committee’s website and read the letter that accompanies the subpoena because understanding what a grave and serious situation this is, the committee made a great effort to lay out in the letter itself the specific information we’ve already gathered about Donald Trump’s personal and direct role in managing and overseeing and coordinating the sophisticated multi-part plan to overturn the election.
TODD: Is the committee open to his supposed offer, or at least behind the scenes offer, of going on live television?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: So the committee treats this matter with great seriousness. And we are going to proceed in terms of the questioning of the former president under oath. It may take multiple days. And it will be done with a level of rigor and discipline and seriousness that it deserves. We are not going to allow–
TODD: Television spectacle, it’s not going to be.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: He’s not going to turn this into a circus. This isn’t going to be, you know, his first debate against Joe Biden and the circus and the food fight that that became. This is a far too serious set of issues. And we’ve made clear exactly what his obligations are. And we are proceeding with that set out.
TODD: How do you bring this country together though because, as I said, you’ve both had a unique experience in seeing partisan hatred, partisan anger directed at you individually. And we see this divide. You see it in our own polling. And it seems very difficult. How would you try to bridge this divide to a national audience?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: You know, I experience a unity every day as I travel around the country, as I work with colleagues on Capitol Hill. There are responsible and rational and sane people in both parties who want what’s best for our country and who want to elect politicians who are going to do the right thing, who want to see elected officials engage on the basis of substance and policy differences, not minimize those differences, but really engage on the basis of that. And so I’ve been very heartened by the unity that I’ve seen, so many who understand we have to say, “Stop. We cannot go over this abyss.” And we have to come together to solve the great challenges our nation faces.
TODD: Donald Trump ends up the nominee in 2024, you’ve said you’re not going to be a Republican anymore. So it implies you think the Republican party can be saved?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: I think that the party has either got to come back from where we are right now, which is a very dangerous, toxic place, or the party will splinter and there will be a new conservative party that rises. And if Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican party, the party will shatter and there will be a conservative party that rises in its place.
TODD: I was with a voter group this week who both were exhausted by the January 6th committee and wanted to see you run for president. What would it take to get you to run for president?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Look, I am going to be very focused on all of the things that we’ve been talking about. And I care deeply, as I know you do, as millions of people do, about this nation, and about the blessing that we have as a constitutional republic. And so, you know, whether that means helping other candidates, whether it means helping to educate people around the country. I have been on a number of college campuses and am very inspired by those young people. But I’m focused on what we’ve got to do to save the country from this very dangerous moment we’re in, you know, not right now on whether I’m going to be a candidate or not.
TODD: There are some people who suggest if you were a third party candidate, it would be enough to stop Trump.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, we will do whatever it takes, as I said. He will not be the president of the United States again.
TODD: Before I let you go, this investigation has an expiration date if Republicans take control of Congress. There’s no report out yet before the election. I know you on one hand want to take politics out of it, but shouldn’t this be on the ballot? Shouldn’t the decision whether this investigation continues be on the ballot in November?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Look, I think it’s very important to take politics out of it. The committee is investigating and proceeding in a way that is not partisan at all. I think that, as people go in to vote, they need to recognize that there are certain candidates who are anti-democracy. They need to recognize that election deniers are anti-democracy. And they should not vote for those people.
TODD: Where does this investigation go on January 4th?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, you know, if we were in a nation where our politics were operating the way they should, the investigation would proceed no matter what. I think that the Republicans have made very clear that they’re not interested in getting to the bottom of what happened or holding people to account. And I think that also ought to be something that Americans across the country are paying attention to. Why would you not want to understand how this happened?
TODD: I’m not asking you to influence Merrick Garland. Not asking you to influence any U.S. attorney. What crime do you believe he committed?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Look, I think that there are multiple criminal offenses – I don’t want to get in front of the committee – but that we are looking at. And I think it’s very important for everybody to recognize that when you are faced with a set of facts, when you’re faced with evidence as clear as this is, and some have said, “Well, you know, we don’t know what his intent was. “Maybe he really thought he won the election.” We actually know that’s not the case. We’ve put on testimony that showed that he admitted that he lost. But even if he thought that he had won, you may not send an armed mob to the Capitol. You may not sit for 187 minutes and refuse to stop the attack while it’s under way. You may not send out a tweet that incites further violence. So we’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal offenses that are likely at issue here. If the Department of Justice determines that they have the evidence that we believe is there and they make a decision not to prosecute, I think that really calls into question whether or not we’re a nation of laws.
TODD: They’ve got a lot of issues that they’re dealing with that may be criminal when it comes to the former president. If they make the decision to charge him on the Mar-a-Lago classified document situation because perhaps it’s an easier case to prosecute and they don’t choose to go down this road, do you find that to be a mistake?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: I have confidence in the professionals of Department of Justice. I have confidence in the attorney general that they are taking very seriously their obligations with respect to every aspect of the potential criminal conduct by the former president. And let’s just have the American people pause on that, that we are talking about multiple instances of criminal conduct by the former president of the United States.