Washington, D.C. – This morning, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) joined CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine and the steps the United States must take to combat Putin’s efforts, as well as the work of the January 6th Select Committee.
Watch the full interview here and see the transcript below:
JAKE TAPPER: Joining us now, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. She’s a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. You just heard my conversation with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Were you satisfied with what you heard? What might you be doing differently right now?
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Well, thanks for having me, Jake. No, I wasn’t satisfied with what I heard. I think that it’s crucially important that the United States be clear that we are absolutely committed to Zelenskyy’s victory. We should not be talking about, as Jake Sullivan did just now, improving Zelenskyy’s position at the negotiating table. This is about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine. It’s about much more than Ukraine. We ought to be moving much faster, much more quickly, recognizing that the Ukrainians now, given what they’ve been able to do and how long they’ve been able to fight and what they’ve been able to inflict upon the Russian forces, they need advanced weaponry. We need to be thinking about providing them with tanks, with artillery, with armored vehicles. We need to be doing much more, more quickly. And there should be no question that this is about, you know, getting to a negotiation or pressuring Zelenskyy to negotiate. This is about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine.
TAPPER: So, you would like to see more offensive weapons, tanks and planes, as opposed to missile defense systems, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, which is what the U.K. and U.S. have focused a lot of attention on?
REP. CHENEY: Look, I think we need to do both. I think we need to do everything that, you know, Zelenskyy says he needs at this point, given the just unbelievable battle that they have put up, the extent to which the Ukrainians have demonstrated that they are not going to be in a position where they allow the Russian forces to make the kinds of gains Putin thought he would be making. I think it’s really important for us to be very clear with respect both to the kinds of advanced weaponry, the kinds of offensive weaponry we need to be providing them. Also, in terms of what’s happening in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov. You know, the United States has a right to be there. It’s international waters. We ought to be doing much more to help keep the shipping lanes open to ensure that the Ukrainians are not continuing to suffer from the kind of economic blockade that the Russians are attempting to impose now. So, I think that there are a whole range of additional things we could be doing and should be doing immediately.
TAPPER: Let’s turn to that horrific missile strike on the Ukrainian train station, more than 50 people, including five children, killed. They were just trying to flee – they’re trying to flee the war and come here to Lviv where I am. They’re trying to escape, and they were targeted and killed. What was your reaction when you saw the new images? Are they war crimes? Do you consider this all genocide?
REP. CHENEY:I think this clearly is genocide. I think that you asked exactly the right questions. I think that Europe needs to understand and grapple with the fact that you’ve got a genocidal campaign, the first kind of horrific, genocidal campaign that we’ve seen certainly in recent decades. I think that also the Europeans need to understand that they’re funding that genocidal campaign. I understand the economic consequences to countries in Western Europe if they were to impose the kind of oil and gas embargo that the U.S. has imposed against Russian oil and gas. But they need to do it, and we need to do everything we can to increase our own domestic production to help make sure that we can supply them with as much as possible. But they need to understand that every single time, every single day that they are continuing to import Russian oil and gas, they’re funding Putin’s genocide in Ukraine.
TAPPER: Do you think that there is a point at which the United States and NATO countries, seeing what’s happened here, need to consider direct military intervention?
REP. CHENEY: I think that the Ukrainians have demonstrated an incredible ability and courage and bravery, and that what we need to be doing right now is doing much more, much faster to provide them with the equipment that they need. I think that we also have to understand and recognize this isn’t just about Ukraine. Putin has made clear his desire to go farther. He’s made clear that he’s got ambitions with respect to the Baltics, with respect to countries like Moldova. And I think the West and NATO has got to understand that Putin’s defeat in Ukraine is a fundamental national security interest for us. That does not mean in the near term, it does not mean calling for U.S. forces on the ground in Ukraine. But what it does mean is ensuring that we’re providing Ukrainians every single thing they need, everything they ask for. We shouldn’t be in a position, for example, where, you know, we’re saying we don’t believe, as our Pentagon has said, they don’t believe that the Ukrainians need the MiGs. If the Ukrainians are asking us for weaponry, we need to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to get it to them.
TAPPER: President Zelenskyy has posed some baffling and challenging existential questions about the existence of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, even NATO. These organizations established, many, in the wake of World War II to make sure that what happened in World War II doesn’t happen again. And he’s been questioning whether or not they actually are effective in any way. What have been your thoughts on that?
REP. CHENEY:Well, I think you have to make a very clear distinction between NATO, which I think is the most effective and successful military alliance in the history – in history, period. And the United Nations, which I think has caused real questions about whether or not it can accomplish or is accomplishing any of the objectives for which it was created. When you have Russia sitting on the Security Council, when you have nations on the Human Rights Council, and I know Russia has been recently removed, but I think the United Nations, I think that it has demonstrated that it is not the kind of effective entity people hoped it would be when it was created. I think NATO is very different. NATO has now been unified. NATO has now worked to make sure that we are coming to the defense of our NATO allies and that we are doing everything that we can do. We need to do more, as I said, to help to support Ukraine and help to support the Ukrainian people.
TAPPER: There are many ways that one can fight to protect democracy. Let’s turn from the military way – it’s being fought here, to the efforts to protect democracy in the United States. You’re the Vice Chair of the January 6th Committee. The New York Times reporting this morning that your Committee has concluded that you have enough evidence to make a criminal referral for President Trump to the Justice Department for obstructing an official proceeding and for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Is that true? Do you have enough evidence to refer Trump for criminal charges?
REP. CHENEY: Well, we have not made a decision about referrals on the Committee. I think that it is absolutely the case, it is absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing, what a number of people around him were doing – that they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway. I think you certainly saw that in the decision that was issued by Judge Carter a few weeks ago where he concluded that it was more likely than not that the President of the United States was engaged in criminal activity. I think what we have seen is a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election. You’ve seen just in the last few days a plea agreement from one of the leaders of the Proud Boys, which lays out in really chilling detail the extent to which violence was planned, the extent to which the message that went out on December 19th about the planning, about the rally in Washington. And don’t forget, Donald Trump tweeted out that message, “Be there. Be wild,” that the day after that message, the organization and the planning started. And that they understood that they knew that they were going to attempt to use violence to try to stop the transfer of power. That is the definition of an insurrection, and it is absolutely chilling.
TAPPER:And just to be clear, you’ve seen this evidence and you believe President Trump committed these two crimes?
REP. CHENEY: What I have just quoted you is a public document – it is the plea agreement in the Donohoe case. Everybody can look at it. I would highly recommend everybody does look at it, it’s a statement of offense in that plea agreement. The Committee has obviously been focused very much, has got a tremendous amount of testimony and documents that I think very clearly demonstrate the extent of the planning and the organization and the objective – and the objective was absolutely to try to stop the count of electoral votes, to try to interfere with that official proceeding, and it is absolutely clear that they knew what they were doing was wrong. They knew that it was unlawful, and they did it anyway.
TAPPER: There is a dispute on your Committee, as I don’t need to tell you, some people feel like a referral, which actually has no legal weight, would only taint the process under which Attorney General Merrick Garland might act. Some feel that that is the wrong argument, that right is right and the Committee has the evidence it has. But where do you come down?
REP. CHENEY: There’s not really a dispute on the Committee. The Committee is working in a really collaborative way to discuss these issues as we are with all of the issues we’re addressing, and we’ll continue to work together to do so. So, I wouldn’t characterize there as being a dispute on the Committee. I think that it is the single most collaborative Committee on which I have ever served. I’m very proud of the bipartisan way in which we’re operating, and I’m confident that we will work to come to agreement on all of the issues that we’re facing. So, I wouldn’t say that it’s accurate right now to say that there’s a dispute on this issue.
TAPPER:Former President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump testified in front of your Committee for eight hours this week, was her testimony helpful? Did she shed any new light on those crucial hours while the attack was underway?
REP. CHENEY: Certainly her testimony was helpful, as has been the testimony of many hundreds of others who have appeared in front of the Committee. And I would just note that it really tells you why the fact that Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro have completely refused to cooperate with the Committee, why that was so clearly contemptuous – why we were right to move the contempt charges against both of them. There’s absolutely no privilege in this country that is an absolute blanket immunity from having to come and testify, having to come and talk to a congressional committee, particularly under these circumstances. And so, the Committee is going to continue to work to get evidence and testimony. And again, we’re incredibly grateful – I’ve been incredibly grateful and, frankly, moved by the many, many people who have come before us because they know it’s their patriotic responsibility and duty to tell us about what happened and to make sure that it never happens again.
TAPPER: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is in the region – I think he’s in Poland. He just issued a statement in support of democracy and the individuals fighting for a free and democratic Ukraine. And I’m just wondering if you feel that there’s any disconnect there, given the fact that he has not exactly been supportive of your efforts to get to the bottom of the attempt to overturn the election in the United States?
REP. CHENEY: Well, what I would say is that what’s happening today in Ukraine is a reminder that democracy is fragile, that democracy must be defended, and that each one of us in a position to do so has an obligation to do so. Clearly, I think Leader McCarthy failed to do that, failed to put his oath to the Constitution ahead of his own personal political gains. And I think that, you know, at the end of the day, each one of us is responsible for our own actions and activity. But if we don’t stand for our Constitution, if we don’t stand for democracy, if we don’t stand for freedom, – if we forget that our oath to our Constitution is an oath to a document, it’s not an oath to an individual, we’ve got to always remember that or our democracy is in peril.
TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, always good to have you on the show. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
REP. CHENEY: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you. Thank you.