By BOB CHRISTIE
PHOENIX (AP) — Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday said the Republican candidates for Arizona governor and secretary of state pose a huge risk for democracy because both say they will refuse to certify election results if they don’t like the results.
Cheney, a prominent critic of former President Donald Trump and one of just 10 U.S. House Republicans who voted to impeach him after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, made the comments at an event organized by the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.
Cheney also leveled broadsides as what she said was a growing “Putin wing” of the Republican Party who want America to withdraw from the world stage and refuse to defend freedom in other countries.
She has spent a lot of time thinking about Arizona and the upcoming elections here.
“In Arizona today you have a candidate for governor in Kari Lake, you have a candidate for Secretary of State in Mark Finchem, both of whom have said — this isn’t a surprise, it’s not a secret — they both said that they will only honor the results of an election if they agree with it,” Cheney told the audience filled with ASU students.
She said both looked at Trump’s 2020 loss in Arizona, and both know that it was carried out following state law, and that there were counts, recounts, audits and court challenges that all went against Trump.
“They’ve looked at all of that, the law, the facts and the rulings, the courts, and they’ve said it doesn’t matter to them,” Cheney said. “And if you care about democracy, and you care about the survival of our republic, then you need to understand, we all have to understand, that we cannot give people power who have told us that they will not honor elections.”
Cheney, who is vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress and was trounced in Wyoming’s Republican primary as a result of her refusal to back Trump, spoke of what she believes is a wider threat to the nation from a Republican Party that is now fully in Trump’s control.
“The first thing that we have to understand is that we’ve never been where we are,” Cheney said. “We’ve never been in a phase, a place where we’re facing this kind of a threat. And that’s because we’re facing a threat from a former president who is attempting to unravel the Republic.”
Cheney, daughter of former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, spoke of how 30 years ago she worked overseas for the International Republican Institute when former Arizona Sen, John McCain chaired the group’s board. She said she saw firsthand how fragile some of those democracies were.
“And I think I knew on some level that even in the United States this was fragile,” she said. “But I certainly didn’t understand just how fragile. I think that’s such an important lesson that we need to take from history.”
Cheney, who said her first vote was for Ronald Reagan and is a traditional conservative Republican who favors low taxes and international engagement by the United States, also took shots at Fox News Channel.
The issue came up after she was asked by the moderator, McCain Institute Democracy Fellow Sofia Gross, about the meaning of patriotism.
Cheney said being a patriot means loving country more than whatever political party someone belongs to.
“And that means that you put your love of country above politics, you put it above your political career,” she said.
She said McCain stood for that idea that American is a nation based on freedom, and that carries with it an obligation to help defend freedom around the world.
“You can’t look at something like what’s happening today with Russia and Ukraine, and say America is neutral in that,” Cheney said. “That’s a frontline in the war of freedom and America must support Ukraine.”
She pointed to what she called “a growing Putin wing of the Republican Party,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“And you see news outlets like Fox News, running propaganda,” she said. “You’ve watched it not just on Tucker Carlson’s show, although he is the biggest propagandist for Putin on that network.
“And you really have to ask yourself … whose side is Fox on in this battle?” Cheney added. “And how could it be that you have a wing of the Republican Party that thinks that America would be standing with Putin as he conducts that brutal invasion of Ukraine?”
Cheney has floated the idea of running for president in 2024, if nothing else than to serve as a foil if the former president runs again.