Adam Kinzinger exit interview: lauds Liz Cheney, might move away, could again seek office

His family sold their home in Channahon and might not stay in Illinois: “That’s something we’ll figure out.”

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who leaves Congress next month after six terms.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., leaves Congress next month after six terms.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, is leaving Congress next month after 12 years, with his legacy achievement fighting the lies, conspiracy theories and election denial leading to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

In an interview Friday, Kinzinger, 44, made clear he has plenty of options: about how he will earn a living, where he will live and whether he again will seek elected office.

Of his future, Kinzinger — whose main jobs have been military pilot and congressman — said, “The best advice I’ve gotten from people is: Just don’t be in a hurry. Like, take your time, kind of decompress, and figure it out.”

We talked the day after he scorched his Republican colleagues in his farewell address on the House floor, castigating them for going along with ex-President Donald Trump’s “lies and deceit” and slamming Democrats for boosting MAGA Republicans in primaries — making easier rivals but driving out more moderate Republicans.

On Monday, the Jan. 6 committee — on which Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming are the only Republican members — delivers part of its final report and votes on criminal referrals. After that, Kinzinger, a military pilot, heads to Wisconsin for duty with his Air National Guard unit.

Kinzinger decided not to run again after Springfield Democrats remapped him into a district with another GOP incumbent. Given his crusade against Trumpism, Kinzinger likely wouldn’t have survived a primary.

Here’s what he said in a wide-ranging conversation:

On the Jan. 6 Committee: Kinzinger said the committee will post the underlying documents and depositions with its report. He’s concerned that when Republicans take control of the House in January, “The question is, for the new majority coming in, as you know, a lot of this stuff will probably be hosted on government sites. Are they going to take it down? Are they going to leave it up?”

Making a living: He’s not that interested in lobbying. Perhaps a TV gig. “I enjoy TV because I think it’s a way to be able to stay kind of out there.” Maybe a mix. Maybe something in academia, corporate boards, TV and perhaps even paid speaking engagements. Sitting members of Congress cannot take speaking fees.

“Wait, you mean somebody gives me money to do this?” Kinzinger said about being on the paid speaking circuit. “That’s kind of cool.”

Political activity outside of running for office: Kinzinger will be active with Country First, the political movement he started, which now oversees multiple entities, including a bipartisan academy training candidates.

“I’m looking forward to being able to actually kind of be involved in all aspects of it and see where it goes from here,” he said.

Maybe writing a book: “I’m definitely interested in it. And so I’ll begin the process of looking around at that.” Not so much a memoir — “maybe it’s my awakening, either way of what’s happened in the Republican Party. ... The transition from a party focused on small government to a party focused on grievance. And I think that’s something that hasn’t really been explored that I would be able to talk about.”

If Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., finds the votes to become speaker in a House where the GOP is a majority by only a few seats: “He’s going to have a hellish speakership. ... He will absolutely hate his life.”

On where Kinzinger, wife, Sofia, and toddler, Christian, will live: The family sold their home in Channahon and might not stay in Illinois: “That’s something we’ll figure out.”

On his military service: Kinzinger pilots an RC-26 surveillance aircraft used to bust drug smugglers. The Air Force is getting rid of the plane. He will have 20 years in the military by the end of the year and might retire once his plane is grounded.

On Liz Cheney: History will show her work on the Jan. 6 committee as “really essential. ... I think she has helped to drive this committee to a successful conclusion.”

Kinzinger documentary in the works: A documentary crew has been following Kinzinger for about a year. He’s not sure when it will come out. He was uncomfortable at first about the “invasive” process. But he and his wife, who was pregnant at the time, decided to do it because this has been “such a defining kind of time in our lives.”

Who should play Kinzinger in a movie? “I’m gonna have to do the obligatory Tom Cruise,” a military pilot in “Top Gun.”

About running for elected office — president, governor or senator: “I would love to get back involved at some point again,” whether “that’s eventually a presidential run, whether it’s governor or Senate.

“But I’m also 44, and I’ve got plenty of time.”

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