Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Sunday condemned the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and President Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election when she accepted the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards, warning the crowd of “a threat we have never faced before — a former president attempting to unravel our constitutional republic.”
In a speech as a recipient of the JFK award, Cheney highlighted the contrasts between past presidents who honored the “sacred obligation” of the transfer of power after an election loss to what happened on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn certification of the 2020 election.
“This sacred obligation to defend the peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president except one,” Cheney said. “The question for every one of us is in this time of testing, will we do our duty, will we defend our constitution, will we stand for truth, will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics?
“Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies and enable the liar?” Cheney continued. “As we face a threat we have never faced before — a former president attempting to unravel our constitutional republic — at this moment we must all summon the courage to stand against that.”
The JFK Profile in Courage Award is awarded to a handful of recipients each year around the time of the late president’s birthday on May 29. It is usually presented by Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy to public servants who make courageous decisions regardless of personal or professional consequences.
Other recipients of the JFK Profile in Courage Awards this year included Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers; and former Fulton County, Georgia Election Department employee Wandrea’ ArShaye Moss.
Cheney serves as the vice chair of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 rioting. She was a former Trump ally and served as chair of the House Republican Conference before criticizing the de facto Republican leader after the rioting, earning the former president’s ire and becoming the banner lawmaker for what Trump calls a “Republican in name only.”
At the award ceremony, Cheney painted a vivid picture of the Jan. 6 riot: “gas masks strewn around” in the halls of Congress, “brass markers on the floor that mark where the desk of Abraham Lincoln sat,” and “officers in black tactical gear sitting on the floor, leaning up against the statues, exhausted from the brutal hand to hand combat they had been engaged in for hours.”
“These men and women had spent hours battling a violent mob — a mob of our fellow countrymen attempting to stop the transition of presidential power,” Cheney said. “It is no exaggeration to say that their courage likely saved our lives and our democracy.”
The Jan. 6 riot is connected to at least five deaths, including civilians and police officers who battled it out on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. The Department of Justice has vigorously prosecuted the rioters connected to the event, with more than 830 people charged and around 300 having pleaded guilty to various charges.
In her Sunday speech, Cheney repeated that the honorable transfer of power was the cornerstone of democracy. She said after the U.S. won its independence from England after the revolutionary war, George Washington handed over the power of the continental army over to Congress.
“With this noble act, George Washington set the indispensable example of the peaceful transfer of power in our country,” Cheney said. “In our Republic, some things have to matter.”