Rep. Kinzinger discusses the events of Jan. 6 as congressional inquiries heat up
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Nearly a year after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, congressional inquiries into the events of January 6 are heating up. This week, a House committee released text messages sent to former President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as the mob breached the building, messages from prominent Republicans imploring Trump to intercede. Then, the House voted to hold Meadows in contempt for failing to appear for a deposition. We're joined now by someone with a front-row seat to all of this, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois who is a member of the committee. Welcome to the program.
ADAM KINZINGER: Hey. Thanks. Good to be with you.
CORNISH: I want to talk about some of those text messages because several of them were read on the House floor. But the names weren't revealed - right? - the names of the Republican...
CORNISH: ...Lawmakers involved. Do you support releasing these names. And if so, when should that happen?
KINZINGER: Yeah, I think we need to be really careful. I think, you know, ultimately, we can understand the names are going to come out. We're going to know who these are. And plus, a lot of people are doing their own research. But we want to make sure with things like speech and debate, which is a specific clause in the Constitution, that we're doing this the right way. The one thing this committee cannot be accused of, even though we get accused of it, but we can't legitimately be accused of, is having a partisan bent. We are nonpartisan.
CORNISH: Then what's the strategy here then? Reading them for the record, putting it out there - I mean, I was seeing it on the cable news networks.
KINZINGER: Yeah. I think you're going to see - well, first off, we wanted to show the fact that, you know, this - these are some of the messages that have been turned over. We want to show the fact that there are lawmakers who are out there saying this was nothing but (unintelligible) for the FBI or it never happened, that in fact, they don't believe that. And I think that's so important when it shows some of the Fox News hosts. But this information will come out in due time. I know we all want it today, and - but we'll soon know.
CORNISH: You're one of only two Republicans in the House to vote to hold Mark Meadows in contempt. It's now up to the Justice Department to decide whether to press criminal charges. Are you confident that could happen?
KINZINGER: Yeah, I feel confident that they will. You know, it's obviously a little bit different than Bannon in that if anybody has the ability to claim executive privilege, it's the former chief of staff. But keep in mind, the only president that can claim executive privilege has to be the current one. He did not claim that. And so we feel pretty good that the Justice Department will do what's right.
CORNISH: In the meantime...
KINZINGER: But we're going to keep getting to the bottom.
CORNISH: ..Timing, it just seems like the clock is running out.
KINZINGER: It does.
CORNISH: Right? You're entering an election year for Congress. If Republicans take back the House, which many describe as being inevitable, the fate of the committee itself is uncertain. So do you have the teeth? Do you have the time to accomplish what you hope to?
KINZINGER: I hope so. I hope so 'cause I agree with you. I think the Republicans will shut this committee down if they take the majority, and that looks likely. So it is a race against the clock.
CORNISH: But are the delay tactics working?
KINZINGER: I think we'll have to tell if they do. They're obviously trying to delay. But we got a very expedited decision out of the federal appeals court on these archives cases. And that's going to go to the Supreme Court inevitably. If they speed it up, that'll answer a lot of these questions and, I think, will make the justice system go faster. But keep in mind, we've interviewed over 300 people. So while some of these guys are getting, you know, big attention, like Mark Meadows, we're getting a lot of information in the meantime.
CORNISH: Should you subpoena Donald Trump?
KINZINGER: So I think if we need to, we should. But I think we can get to that information without having to necessarily stir that hornet's nest. But I will tell you, if he is the key missing piece, we'll certainly do what we need to do.
CORNISH: You called it a hornet's nest. And I understand because dozens of leaders of conservative organizations around the country have called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to remove you and Liz Cheney...
CORNISH: ...From the House GOP conference. I hear you chuckling. So that's the start of an answer to my question, which is, what's your response?
KINZINGER: Yeah, it's interesting 'cause, you know, myself, as a Christian, it's not something I talked about necessarily publicly a lot, but to see some of these, quote-unquote, "Christian leaders," you know, calling on Liz and I to be removed from a party because we're committed to truth, I think that exposes that for what it is. It shows the sad state of the Republican Party, the sad state of Kevin McCarthy to not be pushing back on this. And I think it is incumbent on every Republican elected member and every Republican rank-and-file voter to say, is this really what you want your party to be - one that accepts, you know, conspiracies?
CORNISH: But don't you, in part, have the answer to that? I mean, you - I'm under the impression that you're not going to be running for office again. Right?
KINZINGER: Right, right.
CORNISH: I mean, isn't that because the writing's on the wall in terms of what people believe?
KINZINGER: Well, that's part of it. It's also I did get drawn in with another incumbent Republican in the remap. And I've also, well, been in Congress for 12 years at the end of this term. But look; no, I'm not going to pretend like I'm winning this fight in the party. I'm certainly not. But I think having to stand for truth is so very important. And the Republican Party is going to be around a while. We just need more people to stand up and tell the truth, too.
CORNISH: Do you see yourself voting for any legislative fix when it comes to election - preventing election fraud, any of those reforms that Democrats might try and bring forward?
KINZINGER: Yeah, certainly. I think we need to ensure that people's voting rights are protected, so I'm hoping for a compromise with the Voting Rights Act, as I know has been discussed. And I certainly think we need to not just look at, we need to change the Electoral Count Act because that has been a huge problem and something we need to deal with. We cannot - we have seen a dry run on a coup attempt. We can't give them the ability to do that next time. And if we think they're not going to do it, trust me; they will try.
CORNISH: That's Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and member of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Thank you for your time.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.