Congresswoman Liz Cheney, newly elected Chair of the House Conference, joined me this morning:
HH: Special opportunity to welcome back an old friend. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is now the chair of the House GOP Conference. There was a lot of bad news for the House in November, but the silver lining is that Liz Cheney, a very experienced, very smart pro is now the communications czar of the House Conference. Liz Cheney, welcome back to the program. Great to have you, Congresswoman.
LC: Hey, Hugh, great to be back with you. Thanks so much.
HH: Let me begin with a couple of very basic questions. Do you believe President Trump is a Russian mole?
LC: (laughing) No, I do not believe that, Hugh.
HH: Is President Trump a Russian asset?
LC: No. Listen, I think that you know, one of the big things that we, the mainstream media has failed to cover, no big surprise, is you know, the depth of just the abuse that went on, the fraud that went on when the Obama FBI under Jim Comey used the dossier, which was a campaign document the Clinton campaign had put together, and they used that to secure a warrant to wiretap, to listen in on an American citizen. And that story sort of got some play and then disappeared. But I think the abuse that went on there certainly deserves a deeper and ongoing investigation.
HH: Senator Graham brought that up yesterday with soon-to-be, to the once and future Attorney General, Bill Barr. And it needs focus, because that New York Times story, I think, was an attempt to get ahead of a damning report. Is that how you read it?
LC: Yeah, I mean, who knows? The New York Times is, you know, not going to be covering the news objectively, as you and I and everybody have seen for decades now. But I think that, you know, at the end of the day, we’re in a situation where the President has accomplished the things that he said he was going to accomplish. If you look at the economy, if you look at what he’s done on regulatory reform, and I think, look, regulatory reform is a great untold story. There’s a lot of focus on tax cuts and a lot of focus on some of the things you’ve seen that get more attention. But when you look at a place like Wyoming, for example, and across the country, the economic growth that’s been generated because he has cut back the red tape, and he’s gotten the government out of the business of trying to control every aspect of our lives. That’s going to be long-lasting as long as we protect it from Democrat attempts to reverse it.
HH: You know, I have always stressed regulatory reform, but it’s especially important in extraction states.
HH: I don’t know if you read C.J. Box books.
LC: I do. I’m a big fan of C.J.’s.
HH: His new Wolf Pack in the reader’s edition is sitting here, the review copy. And I can’t wait to read it, because he always takes you to Wyoming. And you realize the government gets in the way in the West more than it gets in the way in the East. It really does destroy opportunity in a lot of places in the West.
LC: It’s just tremendous. I mean, it really, you know, when you think about it, and this is something that I think particularly for us in the Republican Conference, the Republican officeholders now, you know, the notion of how important free enterprise is, how important it is for people to be able to run and manage their own resources and their own lives, that is under attack and under assault not just from the freshmen who’ve come in on the Democratic side of the House, but you know, look at the people that are running for president for the Democrats. We really, we’re in a place where we have to, believe it or not, defend against socialism. And it’s going to be big task, but you know, explaining to people who crucially important it is that we don’t strip power away from the people and vest it back in the federal government again is a big part of what we’ve got to do.
HH: I call it the freedom agenda, and I think you are the perfect spokesperson for the freedom agenda. And we have to persuade people of the freedom agenda, or we will lose it. I mean, it’s that simple.
LC: We do.
HH: Let me ask you a rather high-end question. Do you feel the irony, or do you merely note it, that the same Hollywood left that thinks an idiotic movie like Vice, I won’t see it, the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt left it, they think it’s high art, but that same Hollywood left wrings their hands about the President being a Russian mole or a Russian asset and Putin. It somehow overlooks that the original hawk is Ronald Reagan, and his heir was Dick Cheney. The first guy to call out Putin as the KGB colonel that he is was your father, and yet the Hollywood left, which hates Putin and hates Trump also hates Cheney. You know, it just doesn’t make a lick of sense.
LC: Well, look, I mean, I think the Hollywood left is going to be the Hollywood left. And one of the real tragedies, and I haven’t seen the movie, either. I’ve heard about it. I would encourage people not to waste their money on it. But the tragedy of, one of many, in my view, is look, there is a really important and interesting story to be told about the Bush administration and what they did after 9/11 to keep us safe. And you know, this movie surely does not do that, and you know, presents a whole bunch of things as fact which are…but I do think that you know, we’ve got a situation today where the Russians are very clearly our adversary. I would say the Chinese, too, and frankly, Chinese leverage and pressure and control over aspects of Hollywood is very concerning, the extent to which you’ve got financing of major movies, and it’s, their impact on our culture as well as the kind of threat that we’ve seen from a military standpoint and commercial standpoint is significant and something we’ve got to pay attention to.
HH: One more lookback question. Your father never had any illusions about Putin. On this show, he said he looked into his eyes and he saw a KGB colonel. He never had any illusions about Iran’s mullahs. He didn’t have any illusions about Saddam. He still doesn’t. That sort of realism, is it ever going to be turned onto the disasters of the Obama years? I wrote a piece in the Washington Post yesterday that just serially cited the disasters that fell from the JCPOA, from the reset button, the trip to Cuba, the blind eye to Venezuela, the Syrian genocide, the Libyan intervention, you name it, pulling the troops out of Iraq after 2011, calling the Islamic State a jayvee, North Korea sprinting to 60 weapons, the Belt and Road strategy.
HH: Is anyone ever going to turn realism on the Obama disaster years?
LC: Well, I think that it’s crucially important for people like you, people like me, those of us, you know, who are elected today, and people like you who’ve got such a huge platform that we continue to remind people about that. I think that it was several years ago, my dad and I were there in your studio talking about our book, Exceptional.
LC: And there’s a large part of that book that covers exactly what you’re talking about. And you know, when you look at what the Obama administration did with the JCPOA, and thank goodness President Trump got us out of it, but you can not undo the damage of billions of dollars transferred to the mullahs. And it think it’s one of the reasons if you look at what Iran is trying to do today in terms of building a land bridge across Syria, in terms of absolutely dominating the Middle East in a way that threatens Israel, threatens us, it’s why I think it’s crucially important that we not precipitously pull out of Syria, for example. We’ve got to make sure that the Iranians understand that we’re not going to walk away from our interest there and from defending our allies. But President Trump inherited a huge mess from the Obama administration on the national security/foreign policy front, and on the economic front, too. And I think part of the venom that you’re seeing in terms of the attacks against the President have to do with the extent to which he has really reversed course on so many of those dangerous policies. And the Democrats don’t want to give him credit for it, and they just want to fight against him. They don’t want him to be successful.
HH: That is exactly right. We’re still in the middle of a JCPOA wake.
HH: We’re still hearing keening from the Democrats over the fact the JCPOA has been trashed. Liz Cheney, you are also not only the conference chair, you’re on Armed Services. And I hope that, you know, you may have to slow down Mike Gallagher talking about the Packers all the time, but I hope you and he together, and the rest of the people on there, keep the $750 billion dollar topline, and get the Columbia class funded, our replacement ballistic submarine, the B-21, a new generation of hypersonics. Are you, do you think the Democrats are serious on that committee and on Defense appropriations about continuing the rebuild we absolutely have to have?
LC: I wish I had more confidence that they will be serious. I think there are some members on their side of the aisle who do understand the importance. And I think one of the great things about the Armed Services Committee is it’s one of the most non-partisan, if that’s even possible, committees here on the Hill. But I’m very concerned. We are just in the process now of populating the committees, and so we’ll begin our work probably in the next week or so. But I’m worried that there will be real pressure on the Democrats on Armed Services to deal with issues like global warming and other things that reduce the lethality of our force if we spend our time focused on that. And I’m really pleased. Mike Gallagher is a good friend of mine. He does tremendous work up here, and you know, there are a lot of folks on the committee that we’re going to be fighting hard for these issues. And I would also add nuclear modernization, making sure we sustain our triad. I think that’s an issue that the Democrats have already signaled they don’t understand, it seems, how deterrence works and why it’s so important when the Russians the Chinese in particular, but the Iranians, the North Koreans, while they’re making strides in these areas, this is the worst possible moment for us to start saying we’re going to cut the size of our arsenal, or fail to develop the next generation of weapons. It’s going to be critically important that we don’t let that happen.
HH: You just mentioned populating the committees, and you reminded me of something I wanted to talk to you about. Peggy Noonan in a great book, What I Saw At The Revolution, has a sequence that’s still memorable to me. I haven’t read the book in a decade. But she talked about the time when your father was serving as the ranking member of the Select Committee on Iran Contra. He had as his chief counsel the future judge, Dick Leon. Then-Congressman Cheney was always prepared. Judge Leon was always prepared. No hysterics, just preparation. Is this GOP prepared for the same role as sort of the Pelosi Democrats get their investigation carnival underway? And in fact, have you asked your dad to come and speak to the conference about how to be a minority member on a key committee, because a Judiciary member, I hope you populate that committee with the very smartest people, the very smartest people, because that’s where the action’s going to be.
LC: Yeah, I think both those committees, Judiciary, we’ve got a tremendous ranking member in Doug Collins from Georgia. The other committee that’s going to be crucial in this regard is Oversight. And Jim Jordan’s going to be the ranking member there. He’s also tremendous. And I think when you look at what’s going to have to happen, we certainly are very mindful of how important it will be to get sort of the top of the line folks on those committees. One of the things that Kevin McCarthy, our leader, talks about a lot is we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people on the field at the right time doing the right stuff. And I think those committees will be important. And I certainly, you know, have learned myself from watching my dad that you’ve got to do your homework. And as we embark on the task of communications with the conference, the most effective communications are always when you’re backed up by substance and facts, and not just sort of spin and talking points.
HH: I would just play the video from those Iran Contra hearings when your father was the ranking member, and Dick Leon was sitting beside him, and they knew how to deflate every bogus charge, and it’s very important. I want to close, Liz Cheney, by talking about John Bolton, no stranger to you.
HH: And I just got back…
LC: Big fan.
HH: …from the trip that he took to Israel and Turkey. I got to sit in the back of the plane with the mob of scribbler, the six of us, seven of us. And it was fascinating. And then I get back, and I see that the usual suspects are leaking from the Pentagon and allegedly the State Department. I can’t believe Mike Pompeo is concerned about this, upset that John Bolton requested options for striking Iran after Iran tried to bomb our embassy in Baghdad. Did you find it inappropriate that the NSC advisor did what NSC advisors do, which is present options to the President?
LC: Absolutely not. And look, I would be surprised if those leaks came from the top levels at State or the Pentagon. It sounds to me like, you know, folks down lower who weren’t part of the decision making process who, you know, politically may be in a different place than this administration is. But I would say that John Bolton would have been failing to do his job if he hadn’t asked for those kinds of proposals and recommendations. That’s exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. And look, it’s a significant and serious thing when the Iranians are trying to launch attacks on our facilities whether you’re talking about our ships or whether you’re talking about facilities like our embassy in Baghdad. And I think that again, a huge part of preventing war from breaking out is making sure that all of our enemies and adversaries understand that we have the capability and the will to be victorious in any effort that we would engage in. And I think sometimes, people get that exactly backwards, and they think well, you know, you’ve got to somehow demonstrate weakness, and that’s the only way to keep the peace. And actually, demonstrating weakness is the best way to bring on conflict.
HH: Peace through strength.
HH: Desert Storm, it all comes back to the same thing. Liz Cheney, come back early and often. We’re so grateful that you spent time with us this morning. We look forward to talking to you often throughout the next two years.
LC: Well, me, too. I really appreciate it. Thanks for everything you do, Hugh. And I’ll look forward to talking to you again soon.
HH: Liz Cheney, new chairwoman of the House GOP Conference, third-ranking member of the House Republican Conference.
End of interview.