By Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart, CNN
Washington (CNN) — In her new book, former Rep. Liz Cheney paints a scathing portrait of the Republican Party, condemning her former colleagues and party leaders as “enablers and collaborators,” who after the 2020 election were “willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump.”
The book, “Oath and Honor,” which was obtained exclusively by CNN ahead of its Dec. 5 release, is an unflinching account of what Cheney calls the GOP’s “cowardice,” and how so many were willing to support former President Donald Trump, who she calls “the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.”
Cheney delivers a particularly devastating takedown of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who she says told her that Trump knew he’d lost the election. Cheney is also critical of McCarthy’s successor, House Speaker Mike Johnson, who “appeared especially susceptible to flattery from Trump and aspired to being anywhere in Trump’s orbit,” she writes.
The book serves both as a roadmap laying out how Cheney realized in the days and weeks following the election the dangers of what Trump and his allies were trying to do to overturn the 2020 election, as well as a stark warning that she believes the checks and balances of the Constitution will not hold if Trump is reelected in 2024.
“As a nation, we can endure damaging policies for a four-year term. But we cannot survive a president willing to terminate our Constitution,” the Wyoming Republican writes.
Following Cheney’s prominent role as vice chair of the House’s January 6 committee, which uncovered critical new details about Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, her book is a first-hand account of what was going on behind the scenes — and she names names.
Drawing from real time text messages, emails, calls and meetings, as well as personal conversations, Cheney calls out her Republican colleagues as hypocrites – who knew Trump lost but did his bidding anyway – and says their complicity is a threat to democracy.
“So strong is the lure of power that men and women who had once seemed reasonable and responsible were suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cheney writes.
Cheney has vowed to do whatever is necessary to stop Trump from returning to the White House, including leaving open the door to a 2024 presidential run herself. If Trump is the party’s nominee, Cheney has said she will leave the GOP.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told CNN that Cheney’s book belonged “in the fiction section of the bookstore.”
“These are nothing more than completely fabricated stories,” he said.
‘The Orange Jesus’
Throughout “Oath and Honor,” Cheney describes how she saw her Republican colleagues go from condemning Trump to falling back in line and supporting his claims of election fraud.
Cheney reveals for the first time that McCarthy told her just two days after Election Day that he had talked to Trump and that Trump acknowledged he had lost the 2020 election.
“He knows it’s over,” McCarthy said, according to the book. “He needs to go through all the stages of grief.” Cheney writes that she thought to herself, those stages of grief “seemed to involve tweeting in all caps.”
When the California Republican went on Fox News that same day and said, “President Trump won this election,” Cheney writes, “McCarthy knew that what he was saying was not true.”
Cheney also exposes how other Republicans supported Trump’s election lies even when they knew better. During a GOP conference call, Cheney writes that House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan was “dismissive” of the legal process for challenging the election results and “didn’t seem to think the rules mattered.”
“The only thing that matters is winning,” Jordan said, according to Cheney.
A spokesman for Jordan, Russell Dye, told CNN, “Chairman Jordan was always concerned about the legal process for the 2020 election and how states unconstitutionally changed their laws unilaterally.”
Cheney also calls out Johnson, whose rise to the speakership came after Cheney had finished her book. Cheney recounts how Johnson pressured Republican members to support an amicus brief to throw out the election results from four states Trump had lost.
“When I confronted him with the flaws in his legal arguments,” Cheney writes, “Johnson would often concede, or say something to the effect of, ‘We just need to do this one last thing for Trump.’”
On Jan. 6, before the attack on the Capitol, Cheney describes a scene in the GOP cloakroom, where members were encouraged to sign their names on electoral vote objection sheets, lined up on a table, one for each of the states Republicans were contesting. Cheney writes most members knew “it was a farce” and “another public display of fealty to Donald Trump.”
“Among them was Republican Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee,” Cheney writes. “As he moved down the line, signing his name to the pieces of paper, Green said sheepishly to no one in particular, ‘The things we do for the Orange Jesus.’”
In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for Green’s office denied that he made that comment, saying, “Liz Cheney’s accusation is false. She and her publishers would know this had they reached out to Rep. Green or his office. There was a large crowd in the cloak room that day and Congressman Green unequivocally denies making this comment.”
‘Trump’s not eating’
Cheney also accuses McCarthy of repeatedly lying and choosing the “craven” path of embracing Trump. She recounts the moment she first found out that McCarthy, fearing he had lost his ability to fundraise, secretly went to visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago just three weeks after the Jan. 6 attack.
At first, Cheney thought the photo of the two men smiling and shaking hands was fake. But she was incredulous at McCarthy’s defense of his visit. He claimed Trump’s staff summoned him.
“Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?” Cheney asked.
“They’re really worried,” McCarthy said. “Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”
“What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?” Cheney responded.
“Yeah, he’s really depressed,” McCarthy said.
Cheney reveals that other Republicans were also “angry and disgusted” at McCarthy’s visit to Trump. She writes: “Some mocked him, circulating the Trump/McCarthy photo along with the clip from the movie Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise tells Renée Zellweger, ‘You.. complete… me.’”
In response to CNN’s request for comment, a spokesperson for McCarthy said, “For Cheney, first it was Trump Derangement Syndrome, and now apparently it’s also McCarthy Derangement Syndrome.”
‘You are in danger’
One of the most compelling parts of the book is Cheney’s account of the weeks leading up to the January 6 attack and growing fears that Trump was inciting his followers to violence.
Cheney discloses for the first time that on Jan. 4, she was accidentally included on a White House surrogate call. She was alarmed as she listened in as Trump’s allies detailed specific plans to try to overturn the election by getting then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct or delay the counting of electoral votes.
Cheney says she left the Capitol that night with “a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach” not sure if Pence would “withstand the pressure” from Trump. “I didn’t know if we could count on him,” Cheney writes, and discloses that former House Speaker Paul Ryan also had doubts about Pence.
In a text message shortly after midnight on January 5, Ryan wrote to Cheney, “I worry he breaks but think he will not.”
The morning of Jan. 6, Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, called her after Trump said in his speech on the Ellipse that the crowd should get rid of “the Liz Cheneys of the world.”
“You are in danger,” he told her, cautioning her about speaking on the House floor that day.
Even though she was worried, Cheney writes nothing prepared her for the violence of the attack. As the rioters approached and the House went into lockdown, the Sergeant at Arms warned members they should be prepared to hide under their chairs if necessary.
“Jim Jordan approached me,” Cheney writes. “‘We need to get the ladies off the aisle,’ he said and put out his hand. ‘Let me help you.’”
“I swatted his hand away. ‘Get away from me. You f—ing did this,’” Cheney says she responded.
Jordan’s spokesman denied the incident occurred.
As she and her colleagues rushed out of the House chamber, Cheney writes that she immediately started to talk to then-Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries about the urgent need to impeach Trump.
On January 13, Cheney was one of only 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment. Although he never made a public statement about Trump’s impeachment, Cheney reveals that former President George W. Bush sent her a private message of support:
“Liz, Courage is in short supply these days. Thank you for yours. You showed strong leadership and I’m not surprised. Lead on. 43.”
It was often a lonely position. Cheney and her father were the only two Republicans who attended a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hugged the former vice president when they arrived.
After sitting down, the two Cheneys noted the empty rows of seats on the Republican side of the chamber.
“It’s one thing to hear about what’s happening in our party, but to see it, like this, in such stark terms…” Cheney writes that her father said, his voice trailing off and shaking his head.
‘You’re killing me, Liz’
In the aftermath of Jan. 6, Cheney writes there were “a few days of clarity where most of the House Republican Conference was ready to either impeach or censure Donald Trump.”
It wouldn’t last, she notes ruefully.
She recounts how a GOP colleague, who she does not name, told her he knew what Trump had done was impeachable, but he was afraid that voting to impeach would put his wife and new baby in danger.
“I absolutely understood his fear,” Cheney writes. “But I also thought, ‘Perhaps you need to be in another job.’”
Quickly, Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump – and her blistering statement charging that he “lit the flame” of the attack on the Capitol – put a target on her back as the House GOP conference chair.
The morning of a February 2021 conference meeting, where the Freedom Caucus put forward a vote to oust Cheney, she describes a scene where GOP leaders pressured her to apologize for something – anything – to smooth things over.
“This was feeling more like middle school than the US Congress,” Cheney writes.
She refused to back down, and what followed was a four-hour meeting where colleagues attacked her for standing up to Trump. In one memorable exchange, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania said to her, “It’s like you’re playing in the biggest game of your life and you look up and see your girlfriend sitting on the opponent’s side!”
The remark provoked a chorus of female members who yelled back, “She’s not your girlfriend!”
That day Cheney survived the vote, winning 142 to 56, but she writes the experience was best summed up by Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio who told her, “Well, I just got to spend four hours listening to a bunch of men tell a woman that she wasn’t taking their feelings into account.”
But Cheney’s days in GOP leadership were numbered.
“You’re killing me, Liz,” McCarthy said to her a few weeks later, after their final joint press conference, according to the book.
Cheney, noting the portrait of former President Ronald Reagan on the wall, asked McCarthy how he thought Reagan, or former President George W. Bush or her father would have reacted to Trump on Jan. 6.
“This isn’t their party anymore,” McCarthy told her.
Afterward, Cheney writes: “The GOP was becoming an anti-Constitution party. And too many of our leaders were willing to accept that.”
McConnell: ‘I like where I am’
Cheney’s criticism of the Republican party extends to Senate Republicans and right-wing media personalities who she says also helped spread Trump’s lies.
The book includes new details about conversations between Cheney and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. Cheney writes that at first, McConnell was “firm in his view that Trump should be impeached.”
“I like where I am,” McConnell told her, according to the book, following news reports that he was “contemplating” voting to convict Trump.
But by the time the Senate impeachment trial began in February 2021, “I was growing concerned that Mitch McConnell had lost his earlier resolve,” Cheney writes.
McConnell later changed course, apparently, Cheney writes, because he believed Trump would just fade away after 2020.
“Leader McConnell, who had made a career out of savvy political calculation and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, got this one wrong,” Cheney writes.
In the book, Cheney also condemns right-wing media for amplifying the disinformation coming from Trump and his allies. She notes that she urged Ryan, a member of the Fox Corp. board, to push for a show on Fox News debunking the election lies.
“Several months later, I heard the show had been in the final stages of production when it was shut down,” Cheney writes. “Someone at Fox had apparently decided not to finish it. The show never aired.”
Instead, she writes, Fox let then-host Tucker Carlson spread “intentional disinformation” about Jan. 6.
A Fox News spokesperson told CNN, “There was never a show in production that was shut down.”
‘Visitor from another planet’
The book also includes new revelations about Cheney’s time as vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee. After being ousted as GOP conference chair in May 2021, Cheney accepted an invitation from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to join the committee.
Surrounded by Democrats at the panel’s first meeting, Cheney writes, “I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a visitor from another planet.”
Later, Cheney learned that Pelosi had dismissed her staff’s concerns about appointing the conservative Republican.
Cheney writes that Pelosi’s team “pulled together a list of the 10 worst things I had ever said about her. Speaker Pelosi took one look at the list, handed it back to her staffer, and asked: ‘Why are you wasting my time with things that don’t matter?’”
It was an unexpected alliance, but Cheney says Pelosi always backed her up, and in turn, she was immediately impressed by Pelosi’s leadership.
“We may have disagreed on pretty much everything else, but Nancy Pelosi and I saw eye to eye on the one thing that mattered more than any other: the defense of our Constitution and the preservation of our republic.”
‘Purely wishful thinking’
Cheney’s book ends with a chilling warning for 2024: that Donald Trump is dangerous for the future of the country.
“Trump has told us that he thinks the Constitution can and should be suspended when necessary, that what happened on Jan. 6 was justified, that in a second Trump presidency he would seek retribution,” Cheney writes. “The assumption that our institutions will protect themselves is purely wishful thinking by people who prefer to look the other way.”
Cheney extends her admonition to elected officials surrounding Trump and Republican Party leaders.
“We have also now learned that most Republicans currently in Congress will do what Donald Trump asks, no matter what it is,” Cheney writes. “I am very sad to say that America can no longer count on a body of elected Republicans to protect our republic.”
“Oath and Honor” ends with a call to action that Cheney asserts is more important than partisan politics.
“Every one of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent – must work and vote together to ensure that Donald Trump and those who have appeased, enabled, and collaborated with him are defeated.”
Cheney concludes: “This is the cause of our time.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Kristen Holmes, Annie Grayer and Oliver Darcy contributed to this report
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