Washington – Yesterday, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) sat down with the “TODAY” show’s Savannah Guthrie to discuss the future of the Republican Party. See clips of the segment that aired this morning below and the “extended cut” of the interview can be seen here:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:Can you take me inside those moments for you when you lost your leadership position?
REP. LIZ CHENEY:Well, you know, it was not a surprise. This was really about something that’s much, much bigger than the Republican Conference in the House. It’s a moment where we have to decide as a party whether we’re going to embrace the truth.
GUTHRIE:You were looking at your Republican colleagues in the eye. How did it feel? What was that like?
REP. CHENEY:I was very honest, and I told them I have real affection and admiration for most of them and I love this institution. We all have been put here in this moment by history, and history is going to judge us.
GUTHRIE:Three and a half months ago there was a vote on you, which you overwhelmingly won: 145 votes to 61. Today, it was just a voice vote, it wasn’t even close. What happened? What changed?
REP. CHENEY:For reasons that I don’t understand, leaders in my party have decided to embrace the former president who launched that attack. I think you’ve watched over the course of the last several months the former president get more aggressive, more vocal, pushing the lie, and I think that’s a really important thing for people to understand. This isn’t about looking backwards. This is about the real time current potential damage that he’s doing, that he continues to do.
GUTHRIE:Some of your colleagues say though, “We supported you before, Congresswoman Cheney. You made your point, now drop it. Let’s focus on the future.”
REP. CHENEY:Well, it’s an ongoing threat, so silence is not an option.
GUTHRIE:You’ve made statements since January 6th, you fist bumped President Biden at the Joint Address to Congress. Do you think there was a last straw where you lost the support of your Republican colleagues?
REP. CHENEY:I think it’s very important for all of us, Republicans and Democrats, to get back to the days where we engage on substance and where we don’t treat our political adversaries as enemies. I think that the nation demands that, and the nation deserves that. I also think that there is real concern among a number of members of my own party about a January 6th commission. I’ve been very public that that commission needs to be bipartisan, it needs to look only at January 6th and the events leading up to it, not at the BLM and Antifa riots last summer. I think that that kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.
GUTHRIE: Do you think there were Members of Congress who were complicit in the attack and that a commission could uncover that?
REP. CHENEY:I don’t want to go that far. Each time we have something happen in this country that is that kind of a crisis, we have a commission. There is no reason why there should be any resistance to doing so in this case.
GUTHRIE:What does it say about former President Trump that he will not accept this loss?
REP. CHENEY: That he is unfit, that he never again can be anywhere close to the Oval Office.
GUTHRIE:How far are you willing to take this? Would you run for president?
REP. CHENEY: I think that it is the most important issue that we are facing right now as a country, and we’re facing a huge array of issues. So, he must not ever again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.
GUTHRIE:But my question was, would you run for president to stop that?
REP. CHENEY:I’m going to do everything that I can, both to make sure that that never happens, but also to make sure that the Republican Party gets back to substance and policy.
GUTHRIE:Before I drop it, will you rule out a run for president?
REP. CHENEY:Right now, I’m very focused on making sure that our party becomes again a party that stands for truth and stands for fundamental principles that are conservative and mostly stands for the Constitution. I won’t let a former president or anybody else unravel the democracy.
GUTHRIE:Whatever it takes.
REP. CHENEY:Whatever it takes.
GUTHRIE:One of the things that your critics say is, “Instead of talking about President Biden, we’re talking about Liz Cheney,” — that that is really at the heart of what this vote is about, and why they want you out of leadership.
REP. CHENEY:Look, I’ve been very clear that I think President Biden’s policies are dangerous. Every single day I’m fighting against those policies and will continue to do that. My view is, to be as effective as we can be to fight against those things, our party has to be based on truth.
GUTHRIE:To be a leader in the Republican Party right now, do you have to buy the lie?
REP. CHENEY:I think it’s important for those of us who refuse to do that to be willing to stand up. I obviously believe that the Republican Party policies are much better for the country, but I also know that we cannot convince people that they should put their trust in us if we are building our party on a foundation of lies.
GUTHRIE:What is the hold that President Trump has on the party?
REP. CHENEY:Well, it’s very dangerous.
GUTHRIE:How do you explain it?
REP. CHENEY: I think it’s a cult of personality and I think people were betrayed and misled by him. It’s a real betrayal now that he’s willing to try to unravel democracy to get back into power.
GUTHRIE:70% of the Republican Party right now believes President Trump’s lies about the election. So, if you are out of lock step with the party, why should you be in leadership?
REP. CHENEY:Leadership is about leading and it’s about telling the truth and it’s about making sure that people understand how important these fundamental principles are. And, I think that that is incumbent upon anybody who is elected, upon anybody who is in leadership, to tell the truth.
GUTHRIE:Will you run for re-election?
GUTHRIE:Do you think you can win?
GUTHRIE:The Trump political team is actively looking to coalesce around a primary challenger to you, what is your message to them?
REP. CHENEY:You know, bring it on. As I said, if they think that they are going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate.
GUTHRIE:Are you the leader of the opposition in exile right now in the Republican Party?
REP. CHENEY:I intend to be the leader, one of the leaders, in a fight to help to restore our party, in a fight to bring our party back to substance and principle, and in a fight to make clear that we won’t participate in the really dangerous effort that’s under way.
GUTHRIE:A lot of people frame this as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, but you’re out of office, Trump is ascendant. Hasn’t that battle been waged and won? Didn’t Trump win it?
REP. CHENEY:Actually, I’m in office, and he’s out of office.
GUTHRIE:Fair, you’re out of your leadership office.
REP. CHENEY:That is true, but no, this is, I think, opening salvo in that battle and it is a battle we have to win because it’s not just about the Republican Party, it’s about the country and it is about whether or not we’re going to respect our electoral process.
GUTHRIE:Do you think Leader McCarthy has placed his own ambitions to be Speaker of the House above principle?
REP. CHENEY:I think that he is not leading with principle right now, and I think that it is sad, and I think it is dangerous.
GUTHRIE:What did it mean when Kevin McCarthy, days after the January 6th riots and insurrection, went down to Mar-a-Lago and visited with President Trump.
REP. CHENEY:Leader McCarthy’s visit to the former president in Mar-a-Lagowas really stunning. Given what the former president did, he’s not just the former president. He provoked an attack on the Capitol, an attack on our democracy. So, I can’t understand why you would want to go rehabilitate him.
GUTHRIE:If belonging to the Republican Party requires you to believe that the election was fraudulent and President Trump is the rightful winner, would you ever consider leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent?
REP. CHENEY: I’m not leaving the party.
GUTHRIE:Do you think the president should or could be criminally charged?
REP. CHENEY:I think that is something the Department of Justice will decide. I think it’s very important that the investigation that the Department of Justice has underway be allowed to go wherever it leads. I think the American people have to know.
GUTHRIE:Your father, former Vice President Dick Cheney is a veteran of a few political battles himself. What does he think about the stand that you’re taking?
REP. CHENEY:Oh, I talk to him, every day usually, and I’m just immensely, immensely proud to be his daughter. I learned from him the importance of having the courage of your convictions. I learned from him what it means to stand up for what’s right. People say, “Well, this is courageous.” I’m not landing on Omaha Beach — that’s courage. This is duty.
GUTHRIE:Do you think he’s proud to be your father on this day?
REP. CHENEY: I know he is.
GUTHRIE:You are a political leader in your own right, but it is interesting that here you are, the top female in leadership in the House. Do you see sexism in anything that has gone on here?
REP. CHENEY:I think that as women, you know, all of us have on obligation to usually fight harder and work harder and be better, but I don’t think that anybody should ever play the victim. When I think about my own daughters, when I think about the example of my mother, you know, I was really blessed to grow up in a house where it just never occurred to us, my sister and me, that, you know, our gender was any sort of an obstacle to anything.
GUTHRIE: So, one woman against the Republican Party, and Donald Trump. How does that strike you?
REP. CHENEY: Look, I’m doing what I think is necessary for the good of the country and for the good of the party.