WAdam Kinzinger, 32 year-old Air Force veteran and hen came to Congress in 2011. He was a rising star within the GOP. Today he’s persona non grata within his own party. The Illinois lawmaker is among those who were deeply critical of Trump and is currently one of two members of the House Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Over the course of eight public hearings this summer, the Jan. 6 committee has painted a devastating picture of Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, leading multiple former federal prosecutors to say that the former president is at greater risk of criminal prosecution than ever before. It plans to keep its investigation going and hold two more hearings in September. This will be around when it releases its preliminary report, which will include its suggestions for how to avoid similar events in the future.
In the meantime, Kinzinger says, committee members will keep their work in front of the public by releasing videos of testimony that didn’t make it into the hearings. Panel released one such videoThis Monday’s video shows how Trump, the day after the attack on Capitol Hill, refused to summon the Justice Department to bring charges against those responsible.
In an interview with TIME, Kinzinger—who is not running for re-election—discusses what he thinks the committee has already accomplished and where it will go from here. The following excerpts were taken from the interview and have been reduced to make them more understandable.
Are you satisfied with the outcome of these hearings?
These hearings are more successful than what I expected, and even better than I imagined. When you go into this, you underestimate what people don’t know. Everyone assumes they know all details or almost all of them and are able to put together the story. But when we laid out not just what happened on Jan. 6, but what led up to Jan. 6, it opened a lot of people’s eyes. It was clear that the production aspect of it was made in such a way as to make it easy and bring it alive.
Many people believe that Trump’s hearings were politically damaging. Is that your opinion? Did that goal even exist?
That wasn’t a goal. To be honest with you, when all this started, I didn’t think there was a chance he was going to run again anyway. My view is different now. But I do think it’s damaged him. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be the Republican nominee in 2024—and it doesn’t mean that he can’t win. You can see his reactions. He sends about 30 panicked press releases per day to one of my former email addresses.
The committee’s goal was to find the right answers. That information was needed, along with any legislative recommendations. But we’ve also uncovered what I believe to be various criminal acts, and I think the Department of Justice has taken interest in that, even though that wasn’t our goal.
Are you a believer that the Justice Department should refer the matter to criminal court? What charges would you recommend against the justice department?
We need to complete our investigation before moving on with this. The one thing we don’t want to do is make a criminal referral while we’re still gathering information. While the criminal referral can be considered a sideshow or a distraction, I believe it to have some important points. The details of the charges I will refer to the prosecutor who is far more knowledgeable about the justice system than me. But I can say this on a generic level: If we get to a point where an attempted coup, even a failed one, is not criminal—or there are people that can give it a shot and not fear retribution—that’s a concern for this country.
I’m somewhat concerned that we don’t want to get into this habit of prosecuting prior administrations because that turns us into a Banana Republic. This is an entirely different situation. If there is a crime, and it’s not prosecuted, that sends a much, much worse message.
Continue reading: The Jan. 6 Hearings were transformed by Liz Cheney and Bennie Thompson into must-see TV.
If it gets to a point where we don’t want the politics to look bad, we’re worried about civil unrest, then all you’ve done is signal that a president can basically do everything he potentially can to stay in power. If it works, he’s still in power. If not, no big deal. A conviction can lead to more violence and civil unrest. However, in the long run, an indictment creates greater potential for violence and civil unrest.
How much more can the committee do to its investigations before it reconvenes for public hearings this September?
The investigation team had been busy in the lead-up to the hearings with conducting interviews and collecting evidence. This will continue in August. We’ll start to have an eye toward writing that preliminary report, but continuing to chase down any lead. For example, we still have questions about the Secret Service. Walking and chewing gum are possible.
Do you think there could be more hearings than that?
It’s really going to be if we have another Cassidy Hutchison-type situation. It would not take long to reconvene the hearing. I think it’s really going to depend on whether there’s something that we think is compelling to throw in front of the American people immediately in the form of a hearing.
My understanding is there’s going to be an interim report in September and then there will be a final report down on the line. What would be in the interim report that wasn’t provided in hearings?
It will likely be more evidence presented than was originally given. There are only two hours for each hearing. What we’re presenting is, in essence, the top line, or maybe some of the most compelling evidence. But there’s more. We’ll also talk about recommendations for security. Obviously, the far right is using the security posture as an excuse—and that’s insane. It’s the equivalent of blaming a home invasion victim for not having a security system.
Rep. Luria sent a videomontage Monday showing witness testimony. It showed how Trump had crossed a line during prepared remarks Jan. 7. She called on the DOJ for prosecution of those who stormed Capitol. This is something the committee might be doing during break: releasing video montages, or witness testimony.
That’s a fair prediction. We’ve noticed those videos get a lot of traction. We’re not going to go silent over August, even if we’re not necessarily physically in D.C.
Do you think the committee’s revelations are going to hurt Republican chances in the midterms?
I think it will have marginal effect, but I don’t think 2022 is going to be an election based on Jan. 6. This is what people have to keep in mind: Getting the answers and saving the democracy isn’t always the highest on people’s political mind when you have inflation, a war, high energy prices, and all that.
Continue reading: Trump’s Secret Knowledge
The 2024 year is where I believe there will be an impact. It may be a situation where by 2024, if Trump has gone down in flames, people see him for what he is—which I do believe will happen at some point—it could have a significant effect. It will be difficult to find someone who supports Donald Trump in 5-10 years.
You’ve had a bit of a falling out with Kevin McCarthy. You’ve been very critical of his subservience to Trump. You are very critical of Trump’s subservience to him.
I don’t know. A thought that I think and then say is a sign of weakness. That person will probably never speak. But I don’t think it should be Kevin. Obviously, I won’t have a vote on that.
Most Republicans in Congress, if not all, know that the election wasn’t stolen. Next year, though, you’re going to have a significant number of people who truly believe the election was stolen. And that’s a whole different animal. Kevin McCarthy has always been a close friend of mine, but he clearly knows better. That’s why I dislike him so much. He’s in a position to have a massive impact on what this country will look like and what the party will look like. But he’s used it for his political gains. So yeah, I don’t think he should be Speaker. I also think if it’s not a massive Republican majority, it’s going to be interesting to watch. I think there’s a great chance that he doesn’t become speaker. He will be stabbed in the back by someone, I believe. My friend, live by the sword and die by it.
Are you sure he didn’t do the committee any favors by choosing all of his selections after Pelosi decided no to Jim Banks & Jim Jordan?
Yes. You wouldn’t see a fraction of what you’re seeing in these hearings. The opposition would throw wrenches at everything. It would be a huge fight for every subpoena. A huge fight would be every contempt vote. And you’d see something, I think, more similar to how Benghazi went down. Trump ordered that he pull the members. It’s extremely funny now because Trump is blaming him for pulling his members. Thanks, Kevin.
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