Rep. Liz Cheney is set to deliver an opening statement Tuesday at the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack, taking a high-profile role in the probe that will test her ties to the GOP.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the committee, will speak first, and then the spotlight will shift to Ms. Cheney to help set the stage for a Democrat-led investigation that has furthered the political polarization in Washington and will color the 2022 midterm campaigns.
Ms. Cheney, Wyoming Republican, for months now has been in the thick of the GOP‘s intraparty battle over its fealty to former President Donald Trump. She lost her leadership post earlier this year after refusing to back off her criticism of Mr. Trump and his stolen election claims, and her relationship with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy soured.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rewarded Ms. Cheney last month by appointing her to the select committee and followed that up over the weekend by tapping Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, another Trump critic, to give the panel an imprimatur of bipartisanship.
The political drama surrounding the committee intensified Monday when Mr. McCarthy called Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger “Pelosi Republicans.”
Ms. Cheney fired back, telling Politico that Mr. McCarthy’s comments are “pretty childish.”
“We’ve got very serious business here,” she said. “We have important work to do.”
The tit-for-tat preceded the highly anticipated hearing Tuesday that will feature testimony from police officers that fought against the pro-Trump mob protesting the results of the 2020 election.
The select committee launches its probe after series of clashes between Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, over the makeup of the committee and the scope of its work.
Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, set the tone last week when she rejected two of Mr. McCarthy’s picks for Republicans to serve on the panel: Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana.
Mrs. Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the investigation and comments the pro-Trump firebrands have made in the past and about the investigation.
Mr. McCarthy responded by boycotting the entire effort. He said Mrs. Pelosi was setting a new precedent by striking the minority leader’s committee picks.
“In the history of Congress never has a speaker done that,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters during a ceremony at the White House. “She’s broken Congress. Then it just makes the whole committee a sham and the outcome predetermined.”
Asked about the calls to punish Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger, and whether he’s considering stripping them from other committee assignments, Ms. McCarthy said, “We’ll see.”
Mrs. Pelosi, however, would have the power to reinstate them to their committees if Mr. McCarthy went down that path.
Ms. Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, has been under the spotlight since she joined Mr. Kinzinger and eight other House Republicans in voting to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the events of Jan. 6.
James D. King, a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming, said he anticipates Ms. Cheney will take an open-minded, sober, approach to the investigation.
“In some ways I envision her in the same way as Howard Baker looked at his role in the Watergate committee in 1973,” Mr. King said. “He became famous for his question: What did the president know and when did he know it?”
Mr. King said the panel also could explore other unanswered questions, such as why security was not better prepared at the Capitol.
Ms. Cheney voted in favor of establishing a bipartisan 9/11-style commission that House GOP leaders opposed and that died in the Senate. And she was stripped of her leadership post after she refused to tone down her criticism of Mr. Trump and his unproven stolen election claims.
Mr. Trump is seeking payback in the 2022 midterm elections. He is targeting Ms. Cheney in her GOP primary race and planned to meet this week with some of the seven Republicans seeking to oust her from her seat.
“In the end we just want ONE CANDIDATE running against Cheney,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Ms. Cheney also has taken fire from conservative groups such as The Club for Growth, which recently aired an ad comparing her to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
For her part, Ms. Cheney said she is choosing loyalty to the country and Constitution over the party.
“Our oath to the Constitution, our commitment to the rule of law, and the preservation of the peaceful transfer of power must always be above partisan politics,” she said in a recent statement.
Ms. Cheney has said Mr. McCarthy’s opposition to investigations shows he is unfit to be speaker of the House if Republicans flip control of the chamber next year. She also has made it clear that Mr. McCarthy should testify before the committee and she would support subpoenaing him to testify if necessary.
GOP leaders say the fallout from the events of Jan. 6 is being settled in the courts, and say that the probe is a purely partisan effort.