Rep. Liz Cheney said Sunday the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is prepared to consider subpoenaing Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, if she does not appear voluntarily.
“The committee is engaged with her counsel,” Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked if the panel planned to speak with her about efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “We hope she’ll agree to come in voluntarily. The committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena if she does not.”
Cheney is the vice chair of the nine-member panel. Her statement was the most direct indication of the importance the panel attached to the testimony of Virginia Thomas, who is known as Ginni and whose lobbying on the election raised ethical questions because of her marriage to the Supreme Court’s current longest-serving justice.
A lawyer for Thomas previously said the conservative activist would not appear voluntarily before the committee. Thomas’ role in efforts to overturn the election made headlines in March when the Jan. 6 panel published text messages between her and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in which she urged him to fight harder to challenge the election’s results.
The committee requested testimony from Thomas in June, around the same time as news reports of her communications with White House officials and informal advisers, namely Trump attorney John Eastman, about efforts to overturn the election began to proliferate.
Asked to respond to Cheney’s comments — and whether it sets a dangerous precedent to subpoena the spouse of a high court justice — on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” panel member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said: “There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, but those lines involve sitting Supreme Court justices not presiding or appearing or taking action in cases in which their spouse may be implicated.”
“And in this case for Clarence Thomas to issue a decision in a case — a dissent in a case where Congress was trying to get documents and those documents might involve his own wife, that’s the line that’s been crossed.”
Schiff was referring to Clarence Thomas’ support of Trump’s efforts to block the Jan. 6 panel from gaining access to pertinent White House records. Thomas was the only justice who supported Trump’s request for an injunction in the January 2022 ruling.
In the CNN interview and also in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Cheney detailed her top takeaways from the committee’s most recent public hearing and laid out what she thought were the panel’s goals going forward.
The panel is “looking at whether or not, for example, we need enhanced criminal penalties for the kind of activity Donald Trump engaged in when he attempted to pressure the Georgia officials,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday,” “or for example whether we might need enhanced criminal penalties for something like the supreme dereliction of duty that we saw from President Trump on Jan. 6.”
Cheney said the panel has in recent weeks seen “a real increase in the amount of information and the numbers of people who are coming forward,” which she attributed in part to bombshell testimony from former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson in June. Hutchinson’s testimony has been viewed as a turning point in the investigation, particularly her statement that Trump urged the Secret Service to remove security magnetometers to let in people with weapons because “they’re not here to hurt me.”
“Cassidy Hutchinson will go down in history as a hero, and she never sought to,” said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Cheney’s fellow Republican on the panel, in a separate interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “She’s just a young woman telling the truth with more courage than the vast majority of men in politics today.”
Pressed on both programs about whether she thought the former president committed a crime, Cheney said it was a decision for the Justice Department to make and that the panel had not made any decisions on criminal referrals.
“We’ve not decided yet as a committee whether we’re going to make criminal referrals,” she said on CNN. “That’s absolutely something we’re looking at.”
She added: “I would also say that the Department of Justice certainly is very focused, based on what we see publicly, on what is the largest criminal investigation in American history.”
Cheney faces a primary challenge Aug. 16 backed by Trump and his allies in Congress. Trump has attacked Cheney for condemning his election claims and for her role on the committee.
Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper whether she thought losing reelection because of her role on the panel would be worth it, Cheney said there was “no question.”
“If I have to choose between maintaining a seat in the House of Representatives or protecting the constitutional republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I’m going to choose the Constitution and the truth every single day,” she said.