The new Republican speaker of the US House, Mike Johnson, is “dangerous” due to his role in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, the former Wyoming Republican congresswoman and January 6 committee vice-chair Liz Cheney said.
“He was acting in ways that he knew to be wrong,” Cheney told Politics Is Everything, a podcast from the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “And I think that the country unfortunately will come to see the measure of his character.”
She added: “One of the reasons why somebody like Mike Johnson is dangerous is because … you have elected Republicans who know better, elected Republicans who know the truth but yet will go along with the efforts to undermine our republic: the efforts, frankly, that Donald Trump undertook to overturn the election.”
Johnson voiced conspiracy theories about Joe Biden’s victory in 2020; authored a supreme court amicus brief as Texas sought to have results in key states thrown out, attracting 125 Republican signatures; and was one of 147 Republicans who voted to object to results in key states even after Trump supporters attacked the Capitol.
The events of 6 January 2021 are now linked to nine deaths, thousands of arrests and hundreds of convictions, some for seditious conspiracy. Trump faces state and federal charges related to his attempted election subversion (contributing to a total 91 criminal counts) yet still dominates Republican presidential primary polling.
Cheney was one of two anti-Trump Republicans on the House January 6 committee, which staged prime-time hearings and produced a report last year. In Wyoming, she lost her seat to a pro-Trump challenger. The other January 6 Republican, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, chose to quit his seat.
Like Kinzinger, Cheney has now written a memoir, in her case titled Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning. She has also declined to close down speculation that she might run for president as a representative of the Republican establishment – her father is Dick Cheney, the former defense secretary and vice-president – attempting to stop Trump seizing the White House again.
Johnson ascended to the speakership last month, elected unanimously after three candidates failed to gain sufficient support to succeed Kevin McCarthy, who was ejected by the far-right, pro-Trump wing of his party.
The new speaker’s hard-right, Christianity-inflected statements and positions have been subjected to widespread scrutiny.
Cheney told Larry Sabato, her podcast host and fellow UVA professor: “Mike is somebody that I knew well.”
“We were elected together [in 2016]. Our offices were next to each other, and Mike is somebody who says that he’s committed to defending the constitution. But that’s not what he did when we were all tested in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
“In my experience, and I was very, deeply involved and engaged as the conference chair, when Mike was doing things like convincing members of the conference to sign on to the amicus brief … in my view, he was willing to set aside what he knew to be the rulings of the courts, the requirements of the constitution, in order to placate Donald Trump, in order to gain praise from Donald Trump, for political expedience.
“So it’s a concerning moment to have him be elected speaker of the House.”