Unlikely partners Pelosi and Cheney team up for January 6 investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) – When Nancy Pelosi raised a glass to Liz Cheney, it was the most unlikely of toast.
Democratic lawmakers and the Republican MP gathered in the Speaker’s office as the group prepared for the first session of the committee to investigate the Jan.6 uprising on Capitol Hill.
Pelosi spoke of “solemn responsibility” before them and raised her glass of water to Cheney, a daughter of the former vice president and the only Republican in the room.
“Let’s salute Liz for her courage,” she said, according to a person close to the rally who requested anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Politics often creates improbable alliances, odd couple arrangements between potential enemies who abandon their differences to engage in a common cause.
But the emerging partnership between Pelosi and Cheney is remarkable, if not astonishing, as long-time political opponents join forces to investigate what happened the day supporters of former President Donald Trump took to power. assault the Capitol.
Rarely has there been a meeting of minds like this – two of the strongest women on Capitol Hill, supporters on opposite ends of the political divide – uniting around a shared belief that the truth about the insurgency should emerge and those responsible held accountable. They believe that nothing less than the functioning of American democracy is at stake.
“Nothing brings politicians together like a common enemy,” said John Pitney, former Republican staff member and professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.
The committee will hold its first hearing next week, and the stakes for the Pelosi-Cheney alliance have never been higher. The panel will hear testimony from police officers who clashed with Trump supporters that day on Capitol Hill. Officers described the hours-long siege as a gathering of peaceful protesters, as some Republicans claim, but rather as a violent mob trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.
As their new partnership unfolds, the risks and rewards flow unevenly. Pelosi benefits more politically from attracting Cheney to her side, giving the committee’s investigation the bipartisan big-name cachet it needs to avoid being seen as a strictly political exercise.
For Cheney, who has previously been sacked from the GOP leadership for his criticism of Trump, the political dangers are far greater. She was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for the insurgency, and her willingness to speak out against her best ally, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, now leaves her isolated at Capitol Hill. She is facing a backlash in the ranks and serious main challenges for her re-election in her country.
“I am horrified,” Senator Cynthia Lummis, another Republican from Wyoming, said of Cheney’s actions.
Cheney, however, shows no signs of backing away from what she sees as an existential struggle not only for the party she and her family helped build, but also for the soul of the nation itself.
“The American people deserve to know what happened,” she said this week.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol, Cheney lambasted McCarthy’s rhetoric as “shameful” and supported Pelosi’s decision to block two of his panelists because of their alliance with Trump.
McCarthy suggested Cheney might be closer to Pelosi than to his own party, and he withdrew all Republican involvement on the committee.
Pelosi and Cheney aren’t quick friends.
Despite their long resumes in American politics, they never really spoke to each other until then.
Pelosi won his first term as spokesperson under the George W. Bush administration, largely attacking the White House over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hawkish defensive stance of the then vice president. , Dick Cheney.
Liz Cheney took office in 2017 to defend her father’s legacy, speaking boldly at one of her first press conferences in favor of the improved questioning technique of waterboarding which was decried as a torture under his supervision. During Trump’s first impeachment, she slashed Pelosi’s intentions in speeches.
Although both are members of political royalty, Pelosi and Cheney have operated in parallel political universes for much of their careers. A generation apart, they bring different styles to work – Pelosi, the liberal from San Francisco, Cheney, the conservative from Wyoming. The only thing they have in common is that they are both mothers of five children.
Yet when Pelosi called Cheney the day after the vote to establish the special committee to investigate the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, the two instantly seemed to grasp the historic gravity of the moment.
Pelosi thanked Cheney for her patriotism and invited her to join the panel – an astonishing moment, with the Democratic president appointing a Republican to a post.
Cheney quickly agreed, responding that she was honored to serve, according to another person familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interviews.
Behind closed doors, those involved in the committee’s work see Cheney as a serious and constructive member, far from a Republican figurehead but a determined partner in what she said must be a “sober” investigation. It was Cheney who brought up the idea of former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia serving as an adviser to the committee, which is under consideration, one of the people said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, said that while he and others didn’t know Cheney well, he found her “like every other member I have a relationship with.” And I think it’s good. I just wish we had more of that kind of relationship in this institution. We would be better off.
For Cheney and Pelosi, the commission and its findings are likely to define aspects of their careers.
Pelosi has led the House to impeach Trump twice and is determined to hold him accountable for his actions on Jan.6 as she wraps up what could be her final years as a speaker.
Seven people died during the siege and its aftermath, including Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot dead by police as she walked through a broken window trying to access the House bedroom. Three other Trump supporters in the crowd died of natural causes. Police officer Brian Sicknick, who had fought rioters, died the next day. Two other officers committed suicide.
Cheney, who warned his party in an op-ed that “history is watching” right now, promises to run for a fourth term but has an uncertain political future.
Pitney, the professor who worked for the elder Cheney decades ago as House leadership but left the Republican Party during Trump’s time, said the Pelosi and Cheney link would be one for the story.
“It’s like one of those 1950s sci-fi movies where everyone unites against the alien invader,” he said. Pelosi and Cheney have “a legitimate common interest in getting to the bottom of the insurgency.”
Associated Press editors Mary Clare Jalonick and Alan Fram contributed to this report.