Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, announced Thursday he picked Rep. Liz Cheney as the panel’s vice chair — further elevating the Wyoming Republican just as the panel begins intensely investigating the role of Donald Trump and his allies may have played in the assault.
“Representative Cheney has demonstrated again and again her commitment to getting answers about January 6th, ensuring accountability, and doing whatever it takes to protect democracy for the American people,” Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement. “Her leadership and insights have shaped the early work of the Select Committee, and this appointment underscores the bipartisan nature of this effort.”
Cheney had already been serving as the de facto top Republican on the committee, one of only two appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve after GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy urged a boycott. Cheney gave an opening statement after Thompson at the panel’s first hearing, and Cheney has already had an outsize say in staffing the committee, along with the other Republican member, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). But her elevation to vice chair will give her greater sway as the panel moves forward with its investigation.
The committee has ramped up its inquiry in the last week, sending a flurry of requests to federal agencies, social media platforms, and telecommunications companies asking to preserve records and documents related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and efforts by Trump or his allies to overturn the 2020 election.
McCarthy earlier this week threatened telecommunications companies who furnished records to the select committee, warning them in a statement that a “Republican majority will not forget.”
In a statement on her appointment as vice chair of the select panel, Cheney reiterated her resolve to pursue the truth about the insurrection and vowed the committee would not be “deterred by threats or attempted obstruction.”
“Every member of this committee is dedicated to conducting a non-partisan, professional, and thorough investigation of all the relevant facts regarding January 6th and the threat to our Constitution we faced that day. I have accepted the position of Vice-Chair of the committee to assure that we achieve that goal,” she said.
The move is likely to heighten tensions among House Republicans. Thompson’s announcement comes as Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the chair of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, asked House Republican leadership to change party rules to remove Cheney and Kinzinger from the Republican Conference.
The two were “spies for the Democrats,” wrote Biggs in a letter, adding that they could not be trusted “to sit in on our Republican Conference meetings while we plan our defense against the Democrats.”
McCarthy has so far largely declined to act against Cheney and Kinzinger for accepting roles on the select committee despite pressure from other House Republicans to punish them. But Republicans did remove Cheney from her position in House Republican leadership earlier this year over her outspoken criticism of Trump.