Rep. Liz Cheney said Tuesday Congress must hold those responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol accountable and warned lawmakers they must not let “vicious factionalism of political parties” get in the way of their chief obligation: “to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans.”
Speaking at the first hearing of the House select committee on the Jan. 6 riot, the Wyoming congresswoman and one of just two Republicans participating in the committee’s work, said no member of Congress should “attempt to defend the indefensible,” “whitewash” the events of that day, or “obstruct” the investigation.
Ms. Cheney also focused on the role President Trump and his advisers played in the events of the day.
“We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack,” she said.
“If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system,” Ms. Cheney said.
Ms. Cheney’s comments followed opening remarks Tuesday morning from select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson.
“A peaceful transfer of power did not happen this year,” the Mississippi Democrat said, before playing a video of rioters storming the Capitol and attacking police before hearing from members of the Capitol and D.C. police.
“This threat hasn’t gone away,” Mr. Thompson said. “It looms over our democracy like a dark cloud.”
He insisted that the investigation was not partisan pursuit, but an effort to get facts about how the day unfolded.
“There’s no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation,” Mr. Thompson said. “Our only charge is to follow the facts where they lead us.”
“Some people are trying to deny what happened, whitewash it, and turn the insurrectionists into martyrs, but the whole world saw the reality of what happened on Jan. 6,” he said. “Let’s be clear, the rioters that tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie.”
The panel was set to hear testimony from Capitol Police Officers Aguilino Gonell and Harry Dunn, and District police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped Ms. Cheney for the committee months after she was stripped of her leadership post in the GOP for refusing to back off her criticism of Mr. Trump and his claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen by the Democrats.
The panel was expected to have five more Republicans appointed to the committee, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled his picks after Mrs. Pelosi rejected two of his choices: Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana.
Mr. McCarthy said Mrs. Pelosi established a new dangerous precedent by blocking the minority party’s appointees to a select committee.
Mrs. Pelosi responded by tapping another Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to serve on the panel.
Ms. Cheney said the stakes of the investigation are high.
“The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed, for every American is this: Will we adhere to the rule of law, respect the rulings of our courts, and preserve the peaceful transition of power?” she said. “Or will we be so blinded by partisanship that we throw away the miracle of America? Do we hate our political adversaries more than we love our country and revere our Constitution?”