Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney alleged Thursday that then-President Donald Trump said during last year’s Capitol riot that Vice President Mike Pence “deserves” to be hanged as Trump supporters chanted “hang Mike Pence.”
Cheney, the vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, laid out the claim during her opening statement at the committee’s first primetime hearing — which was highlighted by a 10-minute video tracing the course of the violence as it unfolded, soundtracked by increasingly frantic radio communications from Washington DC and US Capitol Police.
“You will hear that President Trump was yelling and ‘really angry’ at advisers who told him he needed to be doing something more,” Cheney said, “and — aware of the rioters’ chants to hang Mike Pence — the President responded with this sentiment quote: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence quote ‘deserves it.’”
Cheney also claimed that “over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the  presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power. In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan.”
“On the morning of January 6, President Donald Trump’s intention was to remain the president of the United States, despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election. And in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power,” Cheney went on.
Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel, clashed repeatedly with Trump during his four years in office, particularly on foreign policy. She voted last year to impeach Trump for allegedly inciting the riot and Trump has endorsed her congressional primary challenger Harriet Hageman.
The congresswoman’s opening statement was more detailed than the one read by chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who spoke broadly about the events of Jan. 6, 2021 and his perspective on them.
“I’m from a part of the country where people justify the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrection on January 6, 2021,” Thompson said.
The first of many video clips played during the hearing was of Trump Attorney General Bill Barr’s deposition, in which he recalled telling the 45th president that his claims of election fraud were “bulls–t.”
Cheney, meanwhile, introduced excerpts from committee interviews with former Trump aide Jason Miller, who described discussions with Trump about his election loss, and with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — who admitted he brushed off former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s alleged threat to quit over Trump’s post-election maneuvers as “whining.”
Cheney further alleged that a Dec. 19, 2020 tweet by Trump which read “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” set in motion the riot. On that day, Trump addressed thousands of supporters near the White House before urging them to march on the Capitol to pressure Pence and Republican lawmakers to reject swing-state electors for Joe Biden.
“This tweet initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys, who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day,” she said.
An analysis of video by the Wall Street Journal found that Proud Boys members were involved in early clashes with police that helped collapse a security perimeter around the Capitol while Trump was still speaking near the White House.
Cheney promised that during public committee hearings “you will hear about members of the Trump Cabinet discussing the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment and replacing the president of the United States” and accused the 45th president of doing nothing to help relieve besieged members of Congress on that day.
“Not only did President Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended,” Cheney alleged.
“He did not call his secretary of defense on Jan. 6. He did not talk to his attorney general. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day and he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets. But Vice President Pence did each of those things.”
After Cheney’s statement, Thompson introduced the video, some of which appeared in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump following the riot. Other footage was shot by documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who appeared at the hearing as a witness.
The footage included congressional staffers fleeing House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office as the mob approached, a rioter reading out a Trump tweet disparaging Pence over a bullhorn as chaos raged, and a police officer telling a colleague near the West Front of the Capitol: “We can’t hold this. This is too many f—ing people. Look at this.”