Liz Cheney calls Trump ‘a domestic threat we have never faced before’

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Congresswoman Liz Cheney, vice-chair of the congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, has warned that former president Donald Trump represents “a domestic threat that we have never faced before”.

Cheney, the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, told fellow Republicans that it was impossible to be loyal to both Trump and the American constitution.

Related: Tuesday’s hearing was a masterclass on the threats posed by Trump to our republic | Lloyd Green

The Wyoming congresswoman, ostracized by much of her party, was speaking on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, a day after the January 6 committee’s latest explosive hearing.

“At this moment, we are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before,” Cheney told the audience. “And that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic. And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”

The 55-year-old noted that some in her party were embracing Trump and enabling his lies while others are choosing to look the other way because it is the easier path. “One need only look at the threats that are facing the witnesses who’ve come before the January 6 committee to understand the nature and the magnitude of that threat.

“But to argue that the threat posed by Donald Trump can be ignored is to cast aside the responsibility that every citizen – every one of us – bears to perpetuate the republic. We must not do that, and we cannot do that.”

The six hearings of the House of Representatives’ January 6 committee so far have pointed the finger at Trump for encouraging an armed mob of supporters to march on the US Capitol in an effort to slow and stop the counting of electoral votes. The president’s own top aides told him there was no evidence of widespread fraud in Joe Biden’s victory.

“It has become clear that the efforts Donald Trump oversaw and engaged in were even more chilling and more threatening than we could have imagined,” Cheney said. “As we have shown, Donald Trump attempted to overturn the presidential election. He attempted to stay in office and to prevent the transfer of presidential power.”

She added: “It’s undeniable. It’s also painful for Republicans to accept and I think we all have to recognize and understand what it means to say those words, and what it means that those things happened. But the reality that we face today as Republicans, as we think about the choice in front of us – we have to choose. Because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the constitution. We must choose.”

Cheney praised Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old former aide to the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who on Tuesday told the House panel that Trump knew the mob was armed and asked for metal detectors be removed, as well as lunging at a Secret Service agent’s throat as he demanded to be driven to the Capitol.

“Her superiors – men many years older – a number of them are hiding behind executive privilege, anonymity and intimidation. But her bravery and patriotism yesterday were awesome to behold. Little girls all across this great nation are seeing what it really means to love this country and what it really means to be a patriot.”

Cheney’s remarks gained cheers and applause but she looks set to pay a heavy political price for her eviscerations of Trump. After being ousted from party leadership in the House, censured by the Republican National Committee and no longer recognised by her state party, she is facing a showdown in a 16 August Republican primary in Wyoming.

Harriet Hageman, her Trump-endorsed challenger, responded to Cheney’s speech with a statement that said: “Liz Cheney is the last one who should be giving lectures about the future of the Republican party when she is singlehandedly trying to burn it to the ground.

“Cheney is using Wyoming’s only House seat to further her own personal war on President Trump, while helping Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats achieve their own political goals at the same time. She’s doing more to help the future of the Democratic party than anything else.”