U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Wednesday he regrets his Election Day vote for President Donald Trump and voted in favor of impeachment with the majority of the House of Representatives, even if it cost him a few friends.
Kinzinger, R-Channahon, was one of 10 Republicans to vote in favor of impeachment. He said the icing on the cake for him was Trump’s final tweet claiming “this is what you get when you steal an election.”
“Politically, the easiest thing for me would be to vote against impeachment and come up with an excuse,” Kinzinger said. “The reality is that if this isn’t impeachable, short of murder by the president, I don’t know what is.”
Kinzinger said that if he had had the foresight to see what was coming, he would have written in a candidate for president instead of voting for Trump. The congressman doesn’t believe he made the wrong decision with the information he had at the time, but seeing where the election went and the position it puts the government in, he feels differently now.
Kinzinger said he’s had family members, somewhat distant relatives, create a petition disowning him for his views. He has become outspoken on social media, as well as on cable news TV, against the president’s reaction to the election results. Kinzinger has had people tell him they could no longer be friends with him.
“That’s emboldened me because we’re fighting against misinformation from Christians that have been misled,” Kinzinger said. “When you look back when you’re 80 years old and wonder what you did with your life, if I didn’t take this position, I’d have regrets. I’ve gotten outrage, but I’ve also gotten input from people I expected to be mad that told me I was right.”
Kinzinger hopes that in a short amount of time, the majority opinion will be that the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol isn’t the kind of thing Americans will stand for if they want to leave their children a better country.
He said the facts of everything are in the faces of Republicans, and he appreciates others, such as Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming stepping up and showing courage in the face of the insurrection.
“Wyoming is probably not a big supporter of impeachment, but she’s somebody I know that has a deep commitment to this country and her role in history,” Kinzinger said. “There’s an effort to oust her in leadership that will fail. I think we need to have a family meeting about the future of our party. That will happen and it will include all of us, including those that don’t vote for impeachment.”
Kinzinger said the next few months will determine the future of the Republican Party. Members will have to ask what led them to the position they are currently in. Kinzinger said he texts frequently and has conversations with colleagues about the future of the GOP.
“Does [the Republican Party] wake up Saturday morning from a Friday night bender and say what do we do?” Kinzinger asked. “Or does it wake up on a Saturday morning and decide the best way to deal with a hangover is to start drinking again?”
Kinzinger said that if the party sticks to the second option, he probably doesn’t have much of a future in it. Stemming from this, he said he will wait and see about any runs for statewide office, and he said there’s no motive for his actions besides doing what he believes is right.
“I’m not planning or plotting any statewide run,” Kinzinger said. “I won’t rule it out, and what’s obvious here is it would be a fool’s errand until I know where the party is going.”
When asked if redistricting of congressional districts factored into his position against the president, Kinzinger said redistricting is drawn up by the Democratic majority in Illinois and his vote on impeachment will have no effect on how they devise those districts.
“I’m going to continue in engaging the 16th District as we get back to normal business, and I’ll fight for the soul of my party as I think is essential,” Kinzinger said. “The rest I’ll leave up to God.”
Kinzinger said he’s an advocate of the First Amendment, but he thinks there needs to be a real understanding of when free speech crosses the line of yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater.
“Twitter has to come up with a better way to handle free speech if the Ayatollah of Iran can call for the death of Israel, but I see Parler and what happened there, and that just can’t happen,” Kinzinger said. “For a functioning democracy, that cannot happen. We’re going to spend this next term in Congress having those tough in difficult decisions. When it comes to free speech, we’re living in a whole new world and the advanced technology and social media is outperforming our brain’s ability to defend against it.”
Kinzinger is hoping for a “come to Jesus” moment after this period of volatility is over.
He called out, not by name but by action, new Republicans in office that ran “only to be famous.”
“You can see a few of them in our caucus, and the way to become famous quickly is not by putting your head down and working hard,” Kinzinger said. “It’s by saying the outrageous thing like one Republican did by shouting 1776 in opposition to everything the Democrats did. We have to protect the democracy we hold dear.”
Security issue is real, Kinzinger said
Kinzinger said he predicted violence on Jan. 6 before it happened, and he said he was disheartened when he saw the beginning of the 20,000 National Guardsmen file into the Capitol to protect them from further violence.
“I’ve been briefed about the threats that exist that are real and serious,” Kinzinger said. “There are people that feel intimidated by this, and it’s that intimidation that’s why we need to step up our efforts.”
Kinzinger said he won’t be intimidated, but he takes the security threats seriously.
He described what it was like being in the House chambers as the chaos ensued, which he discussed in relation to the new metal detectors.
He said he had just gotten off the phone with his wife when he heard what he thought was a gunshot but actually was a nonlethal flashbang.
“I had this real, actual sense of evil, and I am not one of these people that’s going to say he feels a demon or evil all the time,” Kinzinger said. “It’s rare for me, but it’s happened. I got the chills and got pretty choked up, and said some prayers. A friend of mine was talking to the injured Capitol Police, and each one told them they saw evil out there. This wasn’t a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. They went to war. It was a literal war.”
Kinzinger said he might have his issues with how the metal detectors were set up and rolled out, but he also believes it’s not something lawmakers should be out complaining about. He called it a symbol of how far American politics have fallen.
Kinzinger is not yet sure if he will attend the inauguration, although he wants to, he said. Each attendee will be allowed only one guest, and he said he intends to take his wife, but he’s worried about putting her in danger.
“I think it’ll be a game-time decision,” Kinzinger said. “I’ve never missed an inauguration, and it’s important for everyone to attend. It’s very likely that I go, but it depends on the safety situation.”