Rep. Adam Kinzinger starting ‘movement’ to reclaim GOP from fringe elements

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in explaining his decision, said “this is no time for silence.”

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger in a still from a 6 minute video in which he is starting “a movement” to reclaim the GOP from fringe elements.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger in a still from a 6 minute video in which he is starting “a movement” to reclaim the GOP from fringe elements.

Photo by Matthew Sprague

WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is launching on Sunday a “movement” to reclaim the Republican Party from conspiracy theorists and the forces leading to the Capitol attack and to provide a counter to ex-President Donald Trump, who is retaining his grip on the GOP.

“This is no time for silence. Not after the last month. Not after the past few years. Someone needs to tell the truth. Someone needs to say what history needs to hear. So here I am. The Republican Party has lost its way,” Kinzinger said in a six-minute video posted Sunday kicking off his “Country First” drive.

“My hope is that this grows,” Kinzinger said in a call with reporters. “My hope is that new leaders emerge through this process as we help to support them.” He said the “Country First” movement is “not about trying to build something for me. This is about trying to fight to defend this party because it’s become so unmoored.”

Kinzinger said “Country First” is being bankrolled by one of his political action committees, the Future First Leadership PAC. The PAC had a balance of $39,956 as of Dec. 31. Its donors included philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, who each gave $5,000.

“I quite honestly think there will be a ton of financial support, ” Kinzinger said. Asked about the Gates’ contributions, Kinzinger replied, “these are people who are supportive of good government.”

Kinzinger said the video, taped last Tuesday from a rooftop overlooking the Capitol and at the Lincoln Memorial, was “step one” in developing the movement— “a video of me telling the truth” and asking, “are you interested in being part of that?”

Kinzinger is not sure about step two. He said, “I don’t know what the future of this movement is, I don’t know, you know, how this goes. But I feel totally at peace with the fact that somebody had to stand up, press ahead and that’s where we are.”

Kinzinger has emerged as the only House Republican denouncing conspiracy theories, spotlighting the corrosive lies QAnon spreads and calling out the baseless claims Trump trafficked in during his presidency. He is also one of the 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump a second time.

He is also the sole House Republican who backs punishing freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., — the QAnon conspiracy booster — in the wake of her supporting on-line threats to execute Democrats, spreading anti-Semitic tropes and pushing baseless claims about staged school shootings.

A conservative and pilot in the Air National Guard who has represented an Illinois district in Congress since 2010 — and mentioned as a potential 2022 candidate for governor or senator — Kinzinger said he decided to formalize his crusade after five people died in the Capitol siege on Jan. 6 by Trump supporters who were trying to overturn the election results.

The attack on the Capitol “was a wake-up-call of how did we get here,” Kinzinger said in the interview. “I was hoping that after that there would be a real awakening in the party, and it feels like that is now kind of losing steam to the strength of Donald Trump.”

Kinzinger said he did not tell GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in advance about his move and is braced for blowback from other Republicans. He said he will address his colleagues about his “movement” when House Republicans meet Wednesday.

That meeting now has three sizzling matters on the agenda: Whether to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy. from her leadership post in Trump-fueled retaliation for her impeachment vote; what, if anything, to do about Greene; and Kinzinger’s call to rid the party of fringe elements.

McCarthy, after at first chastising Trump over the Capitol attack, met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and said Trump pledged to help elect Republicans to Congress in 2022. Greene said in a Saturday Tweet she had a “great” call with Trump.

Kinzinger said the Wednesday House GOP member meeting will probably be “the opening salvo in the fight for the party. Are we going to be a party of dark conspiracies, of lies or are we going to be a party of optimism and hope?”

Kinzinger said he is not concerned about his political future or if his “Country First” move results in a censure from Illinois or national Republicans.

Said Kinzinger, “if they try to take action against me and not somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene, well, that will be pretty telling.”

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