Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger said in an interview on Sunday that he believes the Department of Justice “will do the right thing” and bring criminal charges against Donald Trump for his role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“I think he will be charged, and I frankly think he should be,” Kinzinger told CNN’s State of Union political talk show on Sunday morning.
Last month, the House select committee investigating the attack, on which Kinzinger sits, voted to refer the former president to the justice department on charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to make a false statement and “incite”, “assist” or “aid or comfort” an insurrection.
The recommendations relate to the former US president’s role in encouraging the insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington DC as thousands of his extremist supporters sought to prevent the certification by Congress of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
“If he is not guilty of a crime, then I frankly fear for the future of this country because now every future president can say, ‘Hey, here’s the bar.’ And the bar is, do everything you can to stay in power,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger was one of two Republicans on the Democratic-led January 6 select committee, which wrapped up its investigation prior to dissolving and the new Congress beginning on Tuesday, when Republicans will assume the majority in the House following last November’s midterm elections.
Kinzinger led one of the committee’s sessions last June that focussed on pressure allegedly placed on the justice department by Trump or his allies as he strove to persuade them to overturn his 2020 defeat by falsely claiming the election was blighted by widespread fraud.
He has represented Illinois in the House of Representatives since 2011 and was speaking following the last sessions held by the committee and on the eve of his departure from Congress.
Kinzinger also slammed Republican leaders for maintaining Trump’s influence on the US political landscape, by playing down the significance of the Capitol attack and Trump’s incitement of the riot, and often backing Trump’s lies about elections being rigged in favor of Democrats.
He blamed powerful House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who is currently battling to become the new speaker of the House, as the reason the former president remains such a force in politics.
“He is the reason Donald Trump is still a factor,” Kinzinger said. “He is the reason that some of the crazy elements of the House still exist.”
McCarthy, he said, had visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Florida residence shortly after the January 6 insurrection. That show of mutual support at a pivotal moment “resurrected” Trump’s relevance in politics, strengthening the right. In McCarthy making the trip, he said, Republicans went from not knowing what to do about Trump to “begrudgingly” defending him.
“Donald Trump should consider Kevin McCarthy his best friend because Donald Trump is alive today politically because of Kevin McCarthy,” Kinzinger added.
He noted that Senate then-majority leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans failed to convict Trump during his historic second impeachment for inciting insurrection.
“The Republican party is not the future of this country unless it corrects,” he said. “If you think of a successful America in 20 years, that’s not going to be an America based on what Marjorie Taylor Greene wants or … some of these radicals want,” he added, referring to the far-right Georgia congresswoman, who is sympathetic to the QAnon conspiracy theory, and her ilk.
As the 2024 presidential election gradually takes shape, Kinzinger said he was fearful for American democracy, given that “maybe a third of the country” believes the last election was stolen from Trump.
The congressman said it was not his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination. But he conceded that it would be “fun” to run against Trump, who in November declared his 2024 candidacy.
“He stands up and just lies. He tells untruths. People love it because it’s entertaining but eventually people have a concern for their country. So, no, my intention is not to run in 2024. But it would be fun,” he said.