Republican Liz Cheney's leading role in Jan. 6 hearings threatens her own future Cheney, vice chair of the House select committee, will make a statement at Thursday's primetime hearing and lead the questioning of witnesses. Breaking with her party may cost Cheney her House seat.

Republican Liz Cheney's leading role in Jan. 6 hearings threatens her own future

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, holds its first prime-time hearing tonight. Liz Cheney is the committee's top Republican. She broke with almost all of her GOP colleagues to help lead the probe. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh reports on how Cheney has handled the role and what it means for her political future.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: On January 6, when protesters breached the Capitol, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin saw texts about the threat and walked across the House floor to No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney.

JAMIE RASKIN: She was actually the first person that I went to when someone texted me a photo of the insurrectionists who had entered the building brandishing a Confederate battle flag. And I crossed the aisle, and I said, Liz, look, it looks like we're under new management here.

WALSH: Hours later, members in a secure location were figuring out what to do. Raskin said Cheney joined the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and insisted the House needed to finish its duty.

RASKIN: She got up with Hakeem Jeffries in the safe room, where we were all huddled, to say that she was determined that we count the votes.

WALSH: Cheney's voting record in the House is solidly conservative. She backed Trump's agenda 93% of the time. Before her election to the House, she already had her own political career. She worked on her father Dick Cheney's campaign when he was George W. Bush's running mate in 2000. Barbara Comstock knows Cheney from the 2000 campaign and served with her in the House. She said Cheney's work at the Bush State Department, where she promoted democracy in the Middle East, informs her approach to the committee's work.

BARBARA COMSTOCK: I think she comes to it from the standpoint of, you know, that we are, you know, an authority in the world on democracy and the importance of us taking this very seriously.

WALSH: Comstock is a vocal critic of Trump's. She says Cheney's experience watching her mother and father deal with political controversies prepped her for this moment.

COMSTOCK: You know, it's not fun to do this, but I think she understands that when you have political capital, as Maggie Thatcher used to say, you know, sometimes you have to spend it.

WALSH: Zoe Lofgren is a fellow lawyer and Democratic member of the January 6 committee, who didn't know Cheney before they worked on this investigation.

ZOE LOFGREN: She's very, very conservative, and I'm not. So there's a lot of issues we don't agree on. But having said that, I've been very impressed by her commitment to the truth, her intellectual honesty, her skill as a lawyer.

WALSH: Cheney opposed the first impeachment of President Trump in 2019 but shocked her conference when she joined nine other House Republicans to back it in 2021. Her move to continue to speak out about Trump drove her colleagues loyal to the former president to strip her of her leadership position. The night before she was ousted, Cheney took to the House floor to argue her position was in line with her party's principles.

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LIZ CHENEY: I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law.

WALSH: Cheney's decision has made her an outcast in her conference. But Lofgren says it hasn't fazed her.

LOFGREN: She doesn't complain. You know, I think she's nobody's fool. She knows what she's getting into. And she did what she thought was right. And I give her credit for that.

WALSH: Raskin bonded with Cheney over their legal backgrounds. He once wrote a book criticizing the legal reasoning that the Supreme Court used to decide the 2000 election.

RASKIN: She teased me about that the very first time we met, saying, so you don't think that my father should have been vice president? And I said, well, it's nothing personal, but I think that that decision was utterly fraudulent.

WALSH: Raskin says Cheney's sense of humor made them fast friends. But he also says Cheney brings gravity to the probe and knows some of the rioters from her home state who were at the Capitol on January 6.

RASKIN: She has a level of intimate familiarity with the people who populated the insurrection and the attempted coup against America. So she takes this very personally. She feels the betrayal extremely deeply.

WALSH: Trump has made Cheney one of his top targets to defeat in the midterms. He traveled to a rally for her GOP primary opponent, Harriet Hageman.

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DONALD TRUMP: There is no RINO in America who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney.

WALSH: In her announcement running for another term, Cheney didn't mention Trump by name, but made her stand against him part of her campaign message.

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CHENEY: When I know something is wrong, I will say so. I won't waiver or back down. I won't surrender to pressure or intimidation.

WALSH: Cheney's party could retake control of the House in the midterms. If she does manage to win another term, she is likely to still be a lonely voice in a party led by loyalists to the former president.

Deirdre Walsh, NPR News, the Capitol.

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