Rep. Liz Cheney played the role Democrats had chosen for her perfectly. She was to be the angry Republican patriot, giving bipartisan cover to Democrats who were looking to portray the January 6 riot as an organized plot to overthrow the government of the United States.
In this, Cheney performed beyond the Democrats’ wildest dreams. What was billed as an investigation into the response of law enforcement to the riot and the security failures that led to the storming of the Capitol became, under Cheney’s tutelage, an exposé of a far-reaching plan involving dozens of right-wing organizations and hundreds of people to change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
How they were going to do this is, well, kinda fuzzy. There are 10,000 battle-hardened Marines in and around the Capitol with tanks and artillery. One assumes if a real insurrection had begun, the Marines would have been deployed against Oath Keeping ruffians, Proud Boy hooligans, and other various and sundry “dangerous characters.”
Suffice it to say, the U.S. government was in as much danger as the Weimer Republic was when Hitler tried his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. That is — no danger at all.
But Cheney was banking on the hearings to catapult her moribund political career, according to some of the committee aides who spoke to the Washington Post.
Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s Gold Team, excluding reams of other investigative work.
Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the Blue Team — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism.
“We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public,” one former committee staffer told the Post. “But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.”
In other words, the real work the committee did to explain the breakdowns that led to the penetration of one of the most sensitive places in our republic by an out-of-control mob was sacrificed so that the committee’s co-chairman — one of only two Republicans seated on the committee — could use the hearings to advance her career.
The committee has been trying from the start to connect Trump to the planning and execution of whatever plot there was to either change the outcome of the election or overthrow the government — Democrats aren’t exactly clear on which. But every “blockbuster revelation” has failed to prove anything that would lead to an indictment of Trump for “insurrection.”
Some staffers noted that the mission of the committee — as spelled out in the resolution authorizing its formation — was to discover what political forces and intelligence and security failures allowed the U.S. Capitol Police and its partners to be so overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the attack and to ensure that such an event could not happen again. Leaving any relevant information out of the final report would ignore important lessons for the future and issues that will outlive Trump, they argued.
But in the wake of an NBC News story earlier this month that the final report would not include much of the panel’s work not directly related to Trump, lawmakers on the committee are now reassessing what to include in the final draft and also eyeing different ways to publicly share more of the investigators’ work outside of the report. That could include sharing findings on the committee’s website or releasing internal transcripts.
You can bet the main committee report will try to frame the event as a Donald Trump show from beginning to end, top to bottom. We already know that the committee’s work has had zero political impact, judging by the recent midterm elections. It’s likely that the final report by the committee will experience life for a couple of news cycles and then disappear as an issue.
Liz Cheney may run for president. But it would be a vanity run considering her standing with the Republican Party.