As the investigation into the Jan. 6 violent insurrection against the Capitol unfolds, we will no doubt learn more names of brave police officers who held off the crowd, members of Congress who protected colleagues and quick-witted staffers who protected their bosses and their co-workers. However, one political figure rose above all the rest — the Big Lie, the mayhem, the treachery, the political cravenness of her party: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

The No. 3 House Republican leader and representative for one of the most conservative states in the country had nothing to gain by voting against objections to the electoral college vote or for President Trump’s impeachment. Her statement on impeachment was clear, true and brave: “On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes,” she explained. “This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic.”

While more would be known later, she affirmed that “what we know now is enough.” Cheney then declared:

The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.

In both placing blame on Trump and characterizing it as the worst betrayal by any president, she left her fellow Republicans no rational, moral or constitutional justification for voting against impeachment. However, all but 10 House Republicans failed to live up to their oaths and continued to provide aid and comfort to the seditious president and that tells us volumes not about her, but about them. The facts were so clear: there was no basis for overturning the election, no doubts as to why Trump used incendiary language and no question why he failed to call off the mob for hours. We can say there has never been a worse betrayal by members of the House of their oaths in modern history.

Many Republicans doled out the same incendiary claims about a “stolen election,” knowingly inflaming their base. They signed the brief supporting a lawsuit that sought to disenfranchise voters in states that voted for Biden. They voted to object to electors with no basis. They voted again to object to electors after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, seeking to end the electoral recount.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) earned the distinction of being the most irresponsible and dishonest House leader. He could have rejected the assertion that the election was stolen. He could have muzzled the spurious objections of his members. He could have instructed them not to do the bidding of the insurrectionists on the evening of Jan. 6. Despite the deaths of five people, numerous injuries and the mob’s besmirching of the citadel of democracy, McCarthy could not bring himself to vote for Trump’s impeachment. He made this decision even after conceding that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” In a sane party, McCarthy’s lack of spine to protect his own members and staff — not to mention the Constitution and our democracy — would prompt his resignation. This, however, is the GOP.

Rather than recognize the moral and constitutional leadership Cheney showed, her colleagues want her out of leadership. You can hardly blame them: She serves as a Klieg light, illuminating their bad faith and contempt for the Constitution. The GOP is developing two entirely different branches: one that recognizes right from wrong, rejects White supremacy, operates in the real world and upholds its adherents’ oaths of office; and then there is McCarthy’s GOP.

For standing firm in the face of the mob — outside the Capitol and in her own caucus; for refusing to pander to crazies; and for recognizing that elections matter, we can say, well done, Congresswoman Cheney.

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