By Carl Davidson

Liberation Road Newsletter

Dec 20, 2023 – Since the recent publication of Liz Cheney’s new book, Wyoming’s former Member of Congress has been making the rounds of our top media outlets and news shows. If you have yet to watch one, do so. It’s well worth it.

Entitled ‘Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,’ the work takes a deep dive into former President Donald Trump’s attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021. It not only covers that radical rupture with the usual ‘peaceful transfer of power’ in our country’s history, but Cheney also offers us a summary of the events that followed, especially the proceedings of the House of Representatives’s Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

But Cheney is making waves again because she’s delivering more than a history lesson. As her title states, she’s warning us that the battle against Trump and his GOP-turned-fascist party is far from over. In fact, her claim is that greater violent battles may occur in the upcoming presidential year, and we would do well to prepare.

We learn several things from her book we may not have known before, or at least, as the Bible says, we may have only known ‘through a glass darkly’ (1st Corinthians 13). First, Team Trump did not act alone. Second, it really was a coup attempt, complete with armed backup. Third, the attempt is ongoing and is getting worse. Fourth, Cheney had to organize her particular media experts and armed self-defense to survive, get the initial story out, and continue her battle today. Let’s go over them.

Team Trump was not alone. The fact that Trump and his staff, with the help of the Secret Service, pulled off a large rally on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, was widely known, including Trump’s online assertion that it ‘will be wild.’ We could have guessed that it would march to the steps of the Capitol and even try to push through police lines. But what we did not know was a solid majority of House Republicans and a few GOP Senators had been organized in a deeper plot, one involving dozens of GOP-dominated state legislators as well. They were all in on it; they all knew it was illegal, fraudulent, or at least ‘extra-legal’ and unconstitutional, and they were willing to use violence to get their way.

Liz Cheney knew the vital technical details. She knew the GOP collaborators would have fake ballots of fake electors, and they would try to stuff them into the traditional mahogany box handed to Vice President Pence for the counting ceremony. Cheney conferred with the Senate and House parliamentarians and the Sergeants-at-Arms on how to thwart it. She succeeded, but barely so. The other technical detail was that with each state count that Pence reported, House GOPers could object, but unless a Senator also objected, there would be no debate. If there were debate, the Joint Session would be suspended until each House debated and voted the ‘objections’ up or down. They would then return to the Joint Session for Pence to continue. This adjourning could be repeated 50 times, possibly taking days or even more, ensuring chaos. In the chaos, Team Trump would try to throw the election to the states, where each state got one vote, and the GOP held the majority of states.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the mob breached the Joint Session after only one vote, Arizona, and one Senator, Josh Hawley, casting a vote to force the end of the session. Cheney saw to it that the mahogany box was secured. She also had seen to her personal security. Her father, Dick Cheney, the former Vice President and Secretary of Defense, had warned her ahead of time to do so, and insisted on it. She used a trusted ex-Secret Service agent who had guarded her as a child to make sure she was always secure and protected as she moved about or in undisclosed places.

Dick Cheney also had a hand in getting all former living Secretaries of Defense to sign a widely publicized open letter warning of the necessity for a peaceful transfer of power.

Liz Cheney’s next steps were carried out closely and jointly with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They hardly knew each other before, but both knew exactly what had to be done: The Capitol had to be secured that day, and called back into session, even if in the late wee hours. In that session, they had to complete the Arizona debate and make sure there were no more. Still, even after the violence, 139 Houses GOPers stuck to the Trump plan and voted objections. But no Senator voted with them, meaning no interruption of the Joint Session. Under armed guard against any disruption, Cheney and Pelosi got it done. Pence finished the count, and the ceremony was completed. Biden would be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.

It really was an attempted coup. Trump insisted that his guards at the Jan. 6 rally turn off their weapon detectors because he knew large numbers of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were armed. Luckily, the Secret Service was tactically split. Trump planned to lead the assault himself, but the agents in his limo forcibly restrained him and delivered him back to the White House. The mob who did get into the Capitol, and a trained handful of them knew their several tasks: seize and detain Nancy Pelosi, overwhelm the Sergeants at Arms, get the mahogany box, and seize and detain Mike Pence. Pelosi, working with Liz Cheney, thwarted each tactical move.

But there was more. In the days before Jan. 6, Trump had fired and replaced several top Pentagon officials and replaced them with his hitmen with zero qualifications, other than personal fealty to him, to hold those offices. He was assisted by Gen Micheal Flynn, who he had pardoned earlier. Along with Roger Stone, Flynn was Trump’s liaison with the Oathkeepers and other armed units. Trump also acted to confuse and limit the intervention of the National Guard. Once the Electoral College count was thwarted, the plan was to use the Insurrection Act to put the country under martial law.

The ‘Election Denial’ attempt was, and remains, ongoing. By Jan. 11, even though Trump had only a few days left in office, Democrats introduced Articles of Impeachment. It passed the House but with only 10 Republicans voting for it. The GOP majority, while offering a variety of excuses, still stuck with Trump. Cheney was hopeful that Senator Mitch McConnell would back it in the Senate, but in the end, he wavered, and that meant less than the required two-thirds. In the following weeks, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago to flip-flop from his panicked Jan. 6 statements and get back on Trump’s side. The reason? His main job in the GOP was raising money. As a result of the coup attempt, many large corporate donors let it be known that funds to the ‘Freedom Caucus’ and its coup-plotting allies were drying up. The only other major source was Trump’s massive small donor lists. The price of access? McCarthy had to kiss ‘the Don’s’ ring and work to bring him back to the White House. Liz Cheney knew the Freedom Caucus were, for the most part, all surrendering and would work to sabotage any future joint investigation.

Cheney knew the full truth had to come out, and it wouldn’t be easy. With the prospect of a bicameral investigation cut off, Nancy Pelosi decided on the next best step: a bipartisan House Committee. She made an offer to McCarthy to name five Republicans to it. He did, but Pelosi objected to two of them as demagogic hacks, Reps Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, and told him to pick two more. Instead, McCarthy withdrew all five, leading her to quip that ‘Kevin won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer.’ But Pelosi was not to be stopped and instead asked Liz Cheney, and while Liz was a bit surprised, she readily agreed and helped pick one more Republican, Rep Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who had stood against all the coup ploys. Pelosi had named Rep Bennie Thompson of Mississippi to chair the Select Committee, but then asked Cheney to be the vice chair. Somewhat surprised, Liz agreed.

From the start, Cheney knew the Select Committee had to be different. The last thing she wanted to see was a typical House hearing with dozens of reporters, glaring TV lights, and prima donna speakers trying to wring all the stage glamour they could out of an allotted five minutes. Average Americans would tune out. So, working closely with her husband, Philip Perry, an experienced trial lawyer, they planned a radical departure from the average hearing. In addition to legal experts, they hired top film and TV directors. They wanted a series of storyboards drawn up, each featuring a key element of the attempted coup. They wanted it to unfold as a dramatic series, with growing insights and suspense, with only the witnesses in the limelight. Moreover, they wanted nearly all the testimony to come from Republicans themselves, especially those who worked close to Trump and had initially supported him inside the Oval Office or his cabinet. And for any fearful for their lives, they had to do the recordings in highly secure facilities—and with no leaks.

As we know, Thompson and Cheney were successful and powerfully so. The Hearings became among the most widely watched and the most credible that anyone could name. Trump and the GOP attacked it as partisan trash, but the claim didn’t fly. All the testimony did indeed come from their own people. It did cause Liz Cheney to be purged from all her posts in Congress and then to be removed from Congress by a Trump diehard who defeated her in the next race in Wyoming. It didn’t matter.

Liz Cheney now probably has more political clout than she ever has had. And we need to note that she is still a solid right-wing conservative with a 95% rating by those who measure such things. The difference is in the remaining five percent: she is an anti-fascist who sticks by the Constitution and her oath to defend it. She is not only making the rounds to every media forum she can to promote her book and tell the story behind it, Cheney has also formed a new PAC, The Great Task. Its aim is not simply to keep Trump out of the Oval Office, or any office. It is also organizing Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to take down every Trump enabler, not only in Congress but also in every state legislature. And if it means endorsing progressive Democrats to do so, so be it.

This last point has considerable importance for the left. We are not in a ‘united front’ with Liz Cheney, or any formal grouping along those lines. We know her politics too well, and there are too many points of importance to sweep under any rug. But in the current conjuncture and its terrain, we do share common ground and a common goal: the routing of the MAGA fascists in the upcoming elections at every level and in future rounds as well. We can encourage Republicans we know at the base, people we know who are not likely to join our coalitions and projects but who might join hers. Things will undoubtedly change in the future, and for that matter, Liz Cheney may change, too. Nothing in the Universe stands still. But for now, work on the great task at hand.

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