Adam Kinzinger rips Trump, has no regrets standing alone with Liz Cheney

Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of the only Republicans on the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2020 attack on the Capitol, told Fox News he has no regrets about becoming a GOP “pariah” and promised that the panel would find out the truth behind the riots that happened a year ago.

Kinzinger and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney are the only two GOP members on the January 6 committee. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled his entire slate of members after Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied the admittance to Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Banks of Indiana.

The panel is chaired by Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson and features a number of vocal anti-Trump Democrats, including Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Adam Schiff of California.

Kinzinger, who represents a Joliet-area district, told Fox News Thursday he is disappointed in his former “friend” McCarthy for “denying cover” to Republicans like himself that wished to go against former President Trump in the wake of the attack.

“It pains me because Kevin and I used to be friends,” he said on “Your World.” “On January 1, I was on a conference call with Kevin. I said ‘Kevin, I fear there’s going to be violence on the 6th because when you convince people an election is stolen, if you believe that, violence is a logical outcome from that.’

House 1/6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi is shown.

House 1/6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi is shown.

“[McCarthy] just said, ‘Operator, next caller’ … Since January 6, he gave that speech saying Trump bears responsibility. Two weeks later he was at Mar-a-Lago. In that intervening time, there was a lot of silence in the Republican ranks about where are we going to go … The second he went there, he basically denied top cover to anybody that wanted to step out and say the truth and really brought the former president’s political fortunes back to life.”

Kinzinger went on to criticize Trump for what he characterized as creating an environment in which the conservative Republican base reflexively defends the former president and creates fear in politicians who are always looking ahead two or six years to their next election.

“As leaders, we need our base to elect us… part of that two-way street is that we have to lead people as well,” he said. “It is a responsibility, it’s a unique responsibility. I think too many people became fearful. We have a two-year election cycle, so you’re always in one. They became fearful of losing. They became fearful of losing that job.”

“You can convince yourself I’ll stay quiet so [that] I survive because somebody may be with much more conspiracy-driven attitudes will replace me. The problem is now is the time to stand up and tell the people that we represent the truth. They deserve that.”

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE – In this Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

When asked whether Trump caused the Capitol riot, Kinzinger replied that he did not want to “go out on a limb and say that” specifically.

“That is information we want to get to,” he said. “What we know is that for 180-some minutes, he watched television and watched the attack unfold. I can tell you at a basic level that is abdicating your oath of office to ‘defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign & domestic’.”

“Now, if he was gleeful – and did he know stuff leading up to January 6, that’s what I can’t answer,” Kinzinger continued. “That’s what we hope to be able to answer. I think that will show the difference between an incompetent, or a president frozen in inaction versus a president that knew what was coming. That will be key. We don’t have that yet. We’ll get there.”

One year ago, Trump remarked during a speech that his supporters will “soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Various critics point to the chronological gap between the Capitol being breached and the president making any public overtures to try to halt it after he had returned to the White House.

Earlier Thursday, Trump – who has been banished from multiple social media platforms – put out a statement condemning President Biden’s address on the one year since the Capitol riots and singled out the Jan. 6 committee, calling panelists the “Unselect Committee” and claiming critics want to use the anniversary to “stoke fears and divide America.”

On “Your World”, Kinzinger said he and Thompson are receiving good cooperation, however, from some individuals, including those who worked with former Vice President Mike Pence.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., responds to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, about the behavior of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and her repeated "anti-Muslim" attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., responds to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, about the behavior of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and her repeated “anti-Muslim” attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Where we’re not getting cooperation … we have to take that action. We’ve spoken with over 300 people. Significantly the vice president’s former team has been quite cooperative and shedding light on what we need to know,” he said.

“I’m interested in what led to January 6. What were the circumstances? What did [Trump] know prior to January 6? Because what is most important, even more than accountability for that day, is that we don’t have anything like that happen again.”

Some of the committee’s actions to compel testimony, however, have been rocky.

Stephen Bannon, a former Trump adviser and ex-editor of Breitbart News, told reporters late last year that Kinzinger’s panel’s vote to hold him in contempt will become “the misdemeanor from hell” for them and for Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“We’re going to go on the offense. We are tired of playing defense,” said Bannon.

Host Neil Cavuto also asked Kinzinger’s thoughts on Trump potentially “pulling a Grover Cleveland” and defeating Biden – who would essentially play the role of President Benjamin Harrison – to serve two non-consecutive terms if he ran in the 2024 presidential race. The congressman said he certainly would not support Trump if he ran again.

A portrait of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who served from 1885-1889 and 1893-1897.  REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout     (UNITED STATES).  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. 

A portrait of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who served from 1885-1889 and 1893-1897.  REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout     (UNITED STATES).  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. 

“As a conservative, policy-wise, those are the things that excite me – getting conservative policies. But when you can’t govern – and we’re so divided – I’m not sure it matters,” he replied. “Imagine if he’s back on Twitter. Every day it’s a new fight: Trying to unify a country when we’re facing real enemies like China, we’re facing Russia on the border with Ukraine, Iran with a nuclear program, and we’re more interested in fighting the other political party than actually defending American interests. It only gets worse.”

Kinzinger concluded by saying he is proud to stand with Liz Cheney as outliers in the Republican caucus. Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, were the only other Republicans on hand in the House chamber during commemoration speeches earlier Thursday.

“That’s fine,” said Kinzinger. “I wish there were more people, though.”

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