Liz Cheney's memoir "Oath and Honor" is a warning about the Republican Party Liz Cheney's book Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning slams Trump's efforts to stay in power after 2020 and the Republicans who enabled him. She tells NPR why voters should mobilize against him.

Democracy is at stake if Trump is reelected, Liz Cheney warns in her new book

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1216905473/1216905474" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Liz Cheney is out with a tell-all book, an accounting from inside her party on the days before and after the mob attack on the Capitol on January 6.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We need to hold the doors of the Capitol.

(YELLING)

FADEL: "Oath And Honor: A Memoir And A Warning" is a scathing rebuke of Cheney's former colleagues, who, she writes, knowingly collaborated and enabled former President Trump's lies about the 2020 election results. She writes of former House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who defended Trump's lack of a response to the attack on him and his colleagues on January 6.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: What he ended the call was saying - telling me he'll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that's what he did. He put a video out later.

FADEL: A video of Trump, if you recall, that came hours into the attack. In it, he called the attackers good people. Cheney also writes about then GOP caucus vice chair Mike Johnson, currently the speaker of the House, backing the lie that the election was stolen after U.S. courts and state Republican election leaders all debunked the claim.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: President Trump during his rallies that summer - in all of his speeches, he was saying, hey, watch it. The rules are being changed. You know, he was right.

FADEL: When Johnson asked members to sign an amicus brief in support of throwing out election results in some key states, her colleagues, she wrote, felt pressure to sign. Cheney recalls one saying, the things we do for the orange Jesus. On January 6, when she and her colleagues were attacked for trying to certify the 2020 election results, she thought her party would agree that Trump had threatened this country's democracy. But she was wrong. Months later, she was removed from party leadership because of her stance. Just before her ouster, she gave a defiant speech on the House floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.

FADEL: She would go on to lose her House seat to a candidate backed by Trump. She felt compelled to write this book, she says, because the foundations of this country are still at risk.

CHENEY: I thought it was particularly important because the threat that we have faced began really in the time period that I cover in the book is ongoing, and we're now in a situation where it looks like there's a very good chance that Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee, for example. And people really, I think, need to understand and recognize the specifics, the details of what he tried to do in terms of overturning the election and seizing power and the details in the specifics of the elected officials who helped him and - as well as what he would do if he were elected again. And we don't have to guess about that because he has been very clear in terms of being at war with the rule of law.

But in terms of what happened on Capitol Hill, what happened in Congress in the aftermath of the 2020 election, I do think it's very important for people to understand how close we came to a far greater constitutional crisis and how quickly and easily in a way that is, frankly, terrifying, members of Congress who, you know, had seemed reasonable and responsible before the 2020 election, in many cases, how quickly those individuals decided to put their own political survival ahead of their duty to the Constitution. And it's a scary story, but I think it's one that - it's really important. I think people deserve to know what happened from the inside.

FADEL: Now, you don't hold back in this book. You name names. Former speaker Kevin McCarthy comes off as a hypocrite and a coward. You write that he told you Trump knew he'd lost the election. And yet McCarthy repeats these lies and ends up publicly defending the president after the attack on the Capitol. You also write about current speaker Mike Johnson, also an election denier. You say he was easily swayed by flattery from Trump, and you criticize their cowardice, the party's cowardice. Why was it important for you to call out party leadership by name in this moment?

CHENEY: Several reasons. One, you know, with respect to Mike Johnson, when I wrote the book, he was not the speaker of the House. And, you know, I focused very much on the role that he played because it had been such a destructive role even before he ascended to the speakership. And I was very involved and engaged in terms of the debates that we were having about whether or not Republicans should sign on to the Texas amicus brief, for example, or about whether Republicans should be objecting to electoral votes.

And Mike played a particularly destructive role. He claimed to be a constitutional lawyer. He claimed to be somebody who was committed to the rule of law and then time and time again, really did ignore the rulings of the courts and made assertions to our colleagues that were not supported by the facts or by the law or by the Constitution. And the story of the role that he played, I felt, was a very important one to tell, even, you know, before he was in a role of prominence that he is now.

And I think that history really has to be informed by specific individuals and by people understanding that it doesn't take very much, tragically and frankly, in a way that I find heartbreaking. It didn't take much for people to decide that they were going to ignore the most fundamental obligation, I believe, elected officials have.

FADEL: In the beginning of the book and the beginning of this, you are in leadership in your party, and you feel that a lot of your party understands what's at stake with you. But then slowly, that chips away, and at a certain point, you're almost standing alone. Did you have a watershed moment where you realized, the party isn't with me?

CHENEY: After the election, I think there was a period of time where many of us in the party thought, look, there may be legal challenges. Every candidate has the right to do that if they have a basis for it. But certainly by the time the Electoral College meets, Donald Trump will concede; it'll become clear that Joe Biden is obviously going to be the president; and we will all, you know, move forward. And so there were just many moments where I thought that was going to happen, and it didn't. Certainly then, you know, when we got to January 6, then obviously, I talk at length in the book about the lead-up to and that day itself.

But in the aftermath of the 6th, there was near unanimity in the sense that Donald Trump was responsible for what happened. Republicans proposed legislation that would have censured Donald Trump. And the language in that legislation was virtually identical to the article of impeachment. Republicans proposed a bipartisan commission to investigate what had happened, and and the commission that the Republicans proposed was called the Commission to Investigate the Domestic Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Capitol. So it was clear. It was common sense. We'd lived through it. And that near unanimity, though, began to dissipate very quickly.

FADEL: What was it that stripped away that unanimity?

CHENEY: I think it's several things. I think that some of it was certainly just sort of, you know, raw political ambition, that every member of Congress, if you asked them, you know, listen, if you have to choose between the Constitution and your own political survival, every one of them will say, well, of course we will choose the Constitution. But as it turned out, when it came down to it, most of them, or too many of them, didn't. Some of it was fear of violence.

And, you know, I talk in the book about members who told me they believe Donald Trump should be impeached, but they couldn't vote to impeach him because they were afraid for their security, for their families' security. People really need to stop and think about, what does it mean in America that members of Congress are not voting the way that they believe they should because they fear violence instigated by, you know, then the sitting president of the United States? That's a place we haven't been before.

FADEL: What's at stake here for the country?

CHENEY: It couldn't be higher. It really couldn't. And sometimes you hear people say - there was an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal recently where they suggested that even if Donald Trump were elected, it wouldn't be that bad because, of course, we have these institutions, and we have these traditions, and we have the separation of powers and that people could somehow count on that to restrain him. And one of the main messages of my book is, no, you can't. You cannot count on those institutions to restrain him.

You will not be able to count on, you know, a House of Representatives led by Mike Johnson and full of individuals who've already pledged allegiance to Donald Trump. They won't restrain him. United States Senate, you know, with people like Mike Lee, Rand Paul, they won't restrain him. Tommy Tuberville, holding nominations for the most senior positions at the Pentagon. Why is Tommy Tuberville doing that? It's causing great damage to this nation's military readiness. Is he holding those positions open so that Donald Trump can fill them? What's he doing? It's certainly not serving the purposes of the United States of America.

FADEL: The Republican Party is in your blood, right? I mean, the daughter of Dick Cheney, the former vice president. In the book, you describe a lot of towering figures in the Republican Party from the generation before you and your current generation. You still describe yourself as a conservative with these conservative values. But are you a Republican?

CHENEY: I am certainly not a Trump Republican. I think that the Republican Party as it exists today is dangerous to the country. I think that we have to work to rebuild a conservative party. And I don't know whether that means that, you know, the Republican Party, which has gone so far down this path of a cult of personality, whether it can come back or whether we will need to build a new party, another - you know, a party that truly stands for conservative values.

And either way, I think that that is a project that is crucially important, but that won't be completed by 2024. And so I think very much about, what is the most important thing to do now? And I think the most important thing to do now, without question, is to make sure we stop Donald Trump. What American politics looks like after that, what the Republican Party or a new Republican Party or a new conservative party looks like after that remains to be seen.

FADEL: Are you considering a run for the presidency in 2024?

CHENEY: I haven't ruled it out. I look at it, though, very much through the lens of stopping Donald Trump. And so whatever it will take to do that is very much my focus. I think the danger is that great that that needs to be everybody's top priority.

FADEL: Liz Cheney. Her new book, is called "Oath And Honor: A Memoir And A Warning." Thank you so much for your time.

CHENEY: Thank you. Wonderful to be with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.