Cleveland, OH – Yesterday, Congresswoman Liz Cheney participated in a moderated conversation at the City Club of Cleveland with “PBS Newshour’s” Judy Woodruff on the threat increased political violence poses to the country, the next steps of the January 6th investigation, and the future of American democracy. Video of the full conversation is available here and please watch some of the individual highlights below:
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Congresswoman, I want to begin with something that is sobering at this time, and that is the attack just a few days ago on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Paul Pelosi is still in the hospital. We know the man involved in this has been charged with second-degree murder. You’ve been a target of threats, you’ve had to hire additional security. How did we get to this place? We know the number of threats on lawmakers has more than doubled since 2017. Why?
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZ CHENEY: Well, first of all, I know all of our thoughts and prayers are with Paul Pelosi, with Speaker Pelosi, with their whole family. And I want to say a word about Speaker Pelosi. I did not really know her before I began work on the January 6th Committee. I’m not sure if I had ever spoken to her actually. But since I have been on the Committee, and I say this, everyone knows, you know, she is a liberal from San Francisco, I’m a conservative from Wyoming. There are many, many issues, maybe most issues, on which we disagree, but I think that she is a tremendous leader. I’ve watched her up close. She’s a leader of historic consequence. She has put this Committee together and demonstrated her commitment to the truth. And I think that the demonization that goes on on both sides, certainly Republicans have through the years demonized Speaker Pelosi, Democrats have demonized Republicans, including my dad. And it all has to stop. I think that when you see what’s happening in our country, when you watch the extent to which political violence – violence has become part of our political discourse, that’s a road we just can’t go down. And the fact that while Paul Pelosi was in ICU, had been brutally attacked, had a skull fracture and numerous other injuries, that there were members of my party mocking him, that there were members of President Trump’s family mocking him. That’s not who we are in this country. And that is disgraceful. And as Americans, we have to reject it. We have to be willing to say, ‘We can have disagreements, we can have debates, we can have intense debates, but violence cannot ever be part of our discourse.’ And we know because of testimony that the Select Committee has put on, because of testimony in the criminal trials that are underway, that the violence at the Capitol on January 6th was a direct result of Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 Election was stolen. And those claims, he continues to make those claims to this day. Others continue to make those claims to this day. And we know it’s entirely foreseeable that those will lead to violence. So as a nation, we all should be keeping the Pelosi family in our prayers. We all should recognize that we cannot go over an abyss of not being able to have the common human decency to stand against that violence, to condemn the violence, to pray for Mr. Pelosi and his family, and to reject those who are acting in a way that frankly is inhumane.
QUESTION: It’s sad but understandable as to why Republican office holders are reluctant to speak out and put country above party at this time. But in this room right now, we have scores of prominent Republican business people, some of whom know your father, who have gravitas, standing in the community, and checkbooks who remain mute in the face of looming autocracy, and continue to support former President Trump. Do you have anything specific to say to these non-politicians and members of your former party?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, it’s not my former party. But, look, I think I’ve been clear. And I think what everybody needs to recognize is that none of us can be bystanders. And while, you know, we certainly all can say, ‘Look, the Biden economic policies are not policies that we would support. We believe in limited taxes and low taxes and limited government, a strong national defense.’ We don’t even get to have those debates and those discussions if we elect Donald Trump again. If we elect election deniers, we don’t even get to have those debates. And candidates who would embrace what the former president is doing and saying, now that we know, you know, now that we know, we know what he was willing to do, we know what he did. And embracing that, in my view, makes you unfit for office. So I would just say to everybody in this room, and, you know, what I say every place to everybody watching: ‘Nobody’s a bystander, and everybody has to speak out.’ I’ve worked in countries around the world. I’ve worked in Eastern Europe, I worked in Moscow, I worked in Kyiv, when it was Kiev, across the Middle East. I’ve seen what happens when countries are trying to obtain democracy or when countries lose their democratic processes and systems. It’s really fragile. It’s really fragile, and it slips away very, very quickly. And the fact that the United States of America is the oldest democracy in the world, and we’re only 246 years old, really should give everybody pause. It slips away very quickly, and it can happen here. And that requires everybody whether you’re in politics or not to stand up and say, ‘No.
QUESTION: Ms. Cheney, as a first generation American I’m horrified by the last elections, and the message it sends abroad. We see dictatorships taking hold of democracies, and the ongoing battle between Trump and the Republic makes it very hard to tell that America is on the right path and that’s the way the world should be. What do you say to those countries that – you know, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Bolsonaro in [Brazil], on and on and on? What do we do to change that outlook and for those countries to become more democratic rather than less democratic?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, I think the first thing that I would say to them is, ‘No matter what challenges you see the United States going through right now, and they’re significant, in some ways, they’re unique, but don’t bet against America.’ That we as a nation have to recognize, and this is where the notion that somehow America is neutral in battles about freedom. That must never be, you know, we’ve got isolationist forces in our party, they tend to be in the America First movement, that they call themselves ‘America First.’ But it’s isolationist if you listen to the leaders of that movement. And historically, we have had isolationism in both parties. I’m sure everybody saw that you had about thirty progressive Democrats issue and then retract a letter suggesting a change in policy with respect to Ukraine. And when you think about America’s role in the world, there’s a lot of rhetoric now. Sometimes people call me things like ‘warmonger’ because I believe America must lead. Nobody, nobody wants war. War is a horrific thing. But we have to make sure that democracy is better armed than tyranny because you will have situations like you have today in Ukraine, where you have a tyrant who’s decided to try to impose his will by force, and democracy has to fight back. But in addition to that, we have to remember what it means to those fighting for their freedom to have America on their side. And, you know, I think about, you know, people who I’ve had the opportunity to meet, you know, people like Natan Sharansky, who was in a Soviet Gulag when Ronald Reagan was president, and he talked about the hope that it gave him and his fellow prisoners to know – they would spread messages among themselves through Morse Code – and to understand that Ronald Reagan was talking about them, that America was standing with them. You know, Cuban refugees who have come to this great country because of the speeches of Ronald Reagan that they listened to secretly, you know, on the radio so their neighbors couldn’t hear. Again, and again and again, throughout our history it is self-evident that if we really are the nation that we say we are, which I fundamentally believe we are: the only nation in the world, the only nation in history founded on this value of human freedom and equality, that that means that we have a duty and an obligation. We are Americans, because we believe those values. We have a duty to defend those values around the world. And that means we stand for people who are fighting for their freedom. And it means we understand and recognize if we don’t, if we withdraw, if we say we’re going to just come home, and we’re going to ignore what’s happening globally, then we need to be ready to recognize that the people who fill that vacuum are China, or Russia, or Iran, or North Korea. We will be living in a global surveillance state if China has its way. And I think that we have to be able to have those debates and discussions here at home. I certainly have a very clear view about where those have to end up. But we need to understand, as you point out, that the whole world is watching this and that our adversaries are in fact – the Chinese are, as we sit here today, telling countries throughout Asia, ‘Don’t count on America. Look at the trouble America is having. Don’t count on America.’ And we have a duty and an obligation to make sure we get this ship of democracy righted because if we don’t lead, there’s nobody who will.