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Washington, DC – Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) spoke earlier this evening at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Walter Berns Constitution Day event. Full video of her remarks can be seen here and a transcript of her speech is available below. Follow this link for video of the complete event:

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Thank you so much, Robert. It is always wonderful to be at AEI, and wonderful to see old friends in the audience and new friends. AEI is a place that – I don’t have to tell all of you – has been at the forefront of conservative thought and policy for decades. It’s a place that the Cheney family has been associated with for many years, and it’s a particular honor for me tonight that my mother and father are here with us in the audience. I don’t see them – there, there. I don’t know why they made you guys sit alone over there. And as I was getting ready for this evening, it occurred to me that I have been through a number of stressful moments in my life, but giving a Constitution Day speech with Lynne Cheney in the audience may well top the list so – but it’s an honor to be here tonight and an honor to have my parents here and also my wonderful husband Phil, who’s here as well. So, thank you very much. 
Robert’s opening remarks about the Lyceum Address obviously strike home for all of us for a number of reasons. Actually, on January 6th, as I walked into the room where we were being evacuated to my phone beeped, and I was receiving a text message from a young woman, some of you may know named Jenna Lifhits and – oh Jenna’s here. Wow, Jenna, hi. I really didn’t know Jenna was going to be here this evening. But Jenna sent me the Lyceum Address as we were being evacuated. 
And the notion of the reverence for law is one that I think of often. And, I also think about what it means to be a patriot. And since this is the Walter Berns lecture, I was looking back at Professor Berns’ wonderful book called “Making Patriots,” in which he just gives us this definition of a patriot. He says, “a patriot has to be more than a citizen or mere inhabitant of a nation. He has to be devoted to his nation and prepared to defend it.” And over the last 20 months or so, all of us have had the occasion, more occasion than we would have imagined, to think about what it really means to be patriots, and what it really means to be citizens of a free nation. What it means to live in a Constitutional Republic. 
When we think about where we are in our history today, I think it’s very important to remember that most people in most times in history have not lived in freedom, have not had the opportunities that we’ve had to decide who leads us, to decide how our laws are written and what those laws are, or to control their destiny. And before I was elected to Congress, I spent a good deal of my career working around the world in countries that either were not free, or perhaps had been free and it was fleeting, or in the case of some countries that had previously been behind the Iron Curtain, that were just learning what it meant to be free. 
I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how powerful and also how fragile freedom is. I’ve stood outside a polling place in Kenya as an election observer almost 30 years ago. And we watched as men and women filed up to vote and government soldiers arrived and chased them away. And we thought to ourselves on this bipartisan election observation team, “Well, we’re not going to have anything to see because the voting isn’t going to happen here.” And about an hour later, people started streaming back in again because they were willing to risk everything for the right to vote. 
I sat across a table in 1992 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia from a young man who loved freedom, a young man who believed in freedom and believed in freedom for his people. A young man named Boris Nemtsov who wanted his citizens to be free. And Nemtsov was later assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs because he posed such a threat to Putin, because of his defense of and his dedication to freedom. 
I’ve also worked in Kyiv in about that same era. I worked with young people who were trying to help their country throw off the shackles of the Iron Curtain and of Soviet domination. One of those young women later became the Finance Minister of Ukraine. And today, we’re all watching and helping and supporting and defending the Ukrainians as they again are on the frontlines of the battle for freedom and they are engaged in a war they must win, a war that the world needs the Ukrainians to win, and we must continue to help them.
I’ve had three people in my life tell me that it was the words of Ronald Reagan and the model of America that led them to seek freedom here. One was an immigrant who grew up in Castro’s totalitarian regime. Another was a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country’s Minister of Defense. And he told me that he would secretly listen to Ronald Reagan speeches at night on Finnish television. And he understood that America was a place he wanted to be. And I’ve known a man who spent years in the Soviet Gulag, who, again, said it was the miracle of America and of our freedom that convinced him what was possible, convinced him what he needed to strive for. 
And I’ve seen the power of faith and freedom. I was in Kenya in 1985, when Pope John Paul II spoke. And a few years later, I was with my mom and dad at the Vatican – my dad was the Vice President – and Pope John Paul grabbed my dad’s hand and shook it and he said to him, “God bless America.” And I know God has blessed America. We all know that we are incredibly blessed. But this freedom that we have been blessed with, this freedom that is defended and guaranteed by our Constitution only survives if we recognize threats to this freedom when they arise. And today, we are facing such a threat. It’s a threat we have never faced before – it’s a former president who is attempting to unravel our Constitutional Republic.
We are to this day living through the impact of a president who has abandoned his oath. And if you think about our history, we have had presidents of both parties, men of goodwill, some much better than others, but all who fulfilled their oath, all except for one. And we must be clear in this time of testing, at this time of challenge, that when men and women in positions of public trust defend the indefensible and make excuses for Donald Trump, they compromise the principles of our Democratic Republic. And each individual compromise to defend the conduct of one man incrementally changes that Republic. 
Excusing behavior that’s clearly wrong, or unlawful erodes the rule of law. It chips away at our nation’s foundation. And make no mistake, once this conduct is excused it becomes permissible. Think about the trajectory of the moment. The elected leaders of the Republican Party downplay the violence of January 6th, and they demand that all others do the same. This has become a litmus test. It’s as if the hundreds of serious injuries to Capitol Police Officers who defended our Capitol that day were inconsequential. Over the past year, I have spent considerable time with the Capitol Police, some of whom are in this room tonight, and I can definitively tell you they defended this nation, they prevented a far worse constitutional tragedy, and I can tell you how they feel about what happened that day. 
The same leaders who tried to minimize the violence also sometimes tried to rationalize President Trump’s refusal to instruct his orders to leave the Capitol when the attack was underway. I hope that you all heard the testimony in our Select Committee hearings of Pat Cipollone, corroborated by Cassidy Hutchinson and by others on President Trump’s White House staff. Testimony that President Trump was the only person who refused to respond to the desperate calls for help, even from his own congressional allies. He refused to come to their aid. And if you watched our hearings closely, you know that Mike Pence was essentially the president for most of that day. White House staff knew it and so did every other Republican and Democratic leader in Washington. How could Donald Trump’s refusal to act, his betrayal of our Republic, of our Constitution, of our principles, come with no cost? 
Many of the same elected officials who rationalized Donald Trump’s conduct also continue to spread the toxic lie that the 2020 election was stolen, even though they know that is a lie. For anyone who’s even remotely on the fence about that issue, I urge you to download and watch our second hearing from the Select Committee last June, and listen to what the Republicans on President Trump’s campaign, in his Justice Department, in his White House. Listen to what they all said. They all said his claims were false, they were complete BS. He knew it, they told him, “We all knew it.” 
We also today are watching members of my party excuse President Trump’s decision to ignore the rulings of more than 60 courts, as if those rulings were irrelevant. Apparently, in this view, a president is no longer obligated to faithfully execute the laws of the United States as required by the U.S. Constitution. Will future presidents respect and enforce the rulings of our courts if we excuse this behavior with Donald Trump? Some leaders even argue that the Vice President of the United States can reject or refuse to count electoral votes and thereby select the president. This is a legal absurdity. No honest person with any legal training would believe that. But now this view is embraced by millions and promoted by those who know it’s false. Some elected Republicans even defend President Trump’s decision to summon tens of thousands of supporters to Washington, and knowing that they were angry, and knowing that many were armed, instruct them to march to the Capitol.
It is apparently, in this view, okay to ignore the fact that the White House ignored intelligence that those coming to Washington intended to invade the Capitol and occupy it. Every one of us, everyone, watching what President Trump was doing and saying knew that violence was likely, and yet, many now pretend it was a surprise. 
And on top of all of that, those who are protecting Donald Trump – elected leaders of my party – are now willing to condemn FBI agents, Department of Justice officials, and pretend that taking Top Secret SCI documents and keeping them in a desk drawer in an office in Mar-a-Lago, or in an unsecured location anywhere was somehow not a problem. They are attempting to excuse this behavior. They’re attempting to say that it was normal, that it was a storage issue. 
A number of people in this room have worked in national security positions in our federal government. You all know this is a grave problem. And apparently, the Department of Justice has evidence that Donald Trump lied about having these documents, and he lied repeatedly. This has now become excusable too, if you judge by the actions of the elected officials in my party. 
Does defending Donald Trump now mean excusing obstruction of justice? How many of our elected officials today are willing to do that? Bit by bit, excuse by excuse we’re putting Donald Trump above the law. We are rendering indefensible conduct normal, legal and appropriate – as though he were a King.
And now, Donald Trump has been suggesting, not even subtly, that any legal action against him could result in violence. Our former president is apparently now suggesting that if he is prosecuted, his supporters should stand up to our constitutional order and the rule of law, stand up and, through whatever means are needed, prevent his prosecution – prevent the application of the law. It is hard to see this as anything but a direct threat to our Constitution, to our Republic – and a credible one at that. One can only wonder, is this where the Republican Party will go next? That prosecution is inappropriate, because MAGA will violently oppose it. 
All of us have an obligation to acknowledge what is happening. Those activities that I have just listed for you – those are the erosion of the rule of law, and they are the undermining of our constitutional system. Our constitutional system has been defended and handed down to us by every generation since 1789. It comes to us with a duty of inheritance. It doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to our children and our grandchildren, and we must not be the generation that allows it to unravel. 
My friends, I say this to you as a conservative. I believe deeply in conservative policies. I believe in limited government. I believe in low taxes. I believe in a strong national defense. I believe that the family has got to be the central building block of our society. And I share the concerns that many of us, many of you have – justifiable concerns about radical liberalism and about ‘wokeness.’ 
But those concerns cannot justify what the Republican Party is doing now. The means do not justify the ends. This is how democracies fail. That cannot happen and it must not happen. Stopping this erosion requires men and women of goodwill showing courage and remembering that no office is worth holding if you enable, through your action or your inaction, the dismantling of our Republic. 
All of these issues must be above politics. We have an obligation to preserve the structure of our Constitution and our nation. Exactly what many of us have sworn to do before God – and that requires leadership. 
Over the last 20 months, we have seen acts of cowardice. We have seen acts of craven political ambition. But we have also seen incredible acts of courage and valor and patriotism. And we must choose courage. We must choose the Constitution.
I want to leave you tonight with one other thought. Last month, on a beautiful summer night on a ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming, I happened to be speaking to the mother of eleven children. Now, I have five children, and, as Phil can attest, that’s a lot of kids. So, I stood in silent awe of this mother of eleven. She pulled me aside, and she paid me what might be the highest compliment I can imagine. She said to me, “I think you fight so hard for this country because you have a mother’s love for her.” It was such a moving and a humbling idea. And it’s one that every single one of us, whether we’re parents or not, understands. We love our country. 
And to paraphrase Lincoln, “We love her, not just because she’s ours. We love her because she is free.” And millions of us are dedicated to ensuring that our children and their children inherit this tremendous blessing of freedom. Thank you very much. God bless you all. God bless America.

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