WASHINGTON – Liz Cheney urged the Republican Party on Wednesday to rid itself of Donald Trump, calling the former president a clear and present threat to both the GOP and to American democracy at large.
"We have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution," Cheney said during an address at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
While condemning Trump's seeming encouragement of rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Cheney also chided unnamed Republican leaders "who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man."
Speaking to a largely friendly crowd – organizers of the event expressed concern about hecklers – Cheney also told fellow Republicans that they stand at "the edge of an abyss" and "we must pull back."
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Cheney's attacks on Trump echoed those she has made before, including during her work on the special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The address on the future GOP came at a time that Cheney faces maximum political peril. The Wyoming congressman faces a Republican primary challenge in August from Harriet Hageman, a well-funded attorney who has Trump's backing.
Hageman called Cheney's speech ironic, saying she "is the last one who should be giving lectures about the future of the Republican Party when she is single-handedly trying to burn it to the ground."
The incumbent "is using Wyoming’s only House seat to further her own personal war on President Trump, while helping Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats achieve their own political goals at the same time," Hageman said in a written statement she tweeted after the speech.
In her speech – the latest installment in the Reagan Library's "Time For Choosing" speaker series – Cheney said Trump is only using the Republican Party for his own gain.
Saying that Trump and his backers appear willing to try and steal future elections, Cheney told fellow Republicans that "we are also confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before – a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our Constitutional Republic."
One of two Republicans on the investigating committee, Cheney discussed evidence about Trump's efforts to basically steal the 2020 election and encourage riots over it. She described Trump's actions as "even more chilling and threatening than we imagined."
During a Tuesday committee hearing, Cheney led the questioning of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who testified that Trump was aware that some of his supporters had weapons on Jan. 6, even as he urged them to march on the U.S. Capitol to protest the election.
In her speech on the GOP, Cheney praised Hutchinson and described her courage and patriotism as "awesome to behold."
Cheney's long-time criticism of Trump – she was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him over Jan. 6 – has cost her support within the GOP. Last year, House Republicans expelled Cheney from her leadership position. Earlier this year, the national Republican Party censured her.
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Trump – who vowed revenge on impeachment supporters – has frequently attacked both Cheney and her father, former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney.
During a rally in Wyoming in May, Trump said "the Cheneys are die-hard globalists and warmongers who have been plunging us into new conflicts for decades, spilling American blood and spending American treasure all over the world."
Before her indictment of Trump, Cheney used her Reagan library speech to talk about both foreign and domestic threats to the United States. She condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cheney also criticized President Joe Biden's economic and border policies, though in much less harsh terms that those she reserved for Trump.
"Our freedom will only survive if we protect it," Cheney said.
Toward the end of her remarks, Cheney praised the young women leaders she has met, and joked about their future challenges.
Said Cheney: "These days, for the most part, men are running the world - and it is really not going that well."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Domestic threat:' Liz Cheney urges Republicans to ditch Donald Trump