WASHINGTON — Making his first public speech since leaving office, ex-President Donald Trump on Sunday targeted for defeat leading Trump critic Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Republicans who voted to impeach Trump or convict him after his Senate trial.
“Get rid of them all,” said Trump before an adoring crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Orlando.
Trump read off the names of the 10 House members, including Kinzinger, who voted to impeach him a second time plus senators who voted to convict him, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Kinzinger, leading the charge to erode the influence of Trump in the Republican Party, was asked about Trump’s comments when speaking to a small group of reporters after the Orlando speech.
“I’m not surprised by anything he said. I expected to be called out by name. I’m surprised it’s taken this long,” said Kinzinger.
Multiple related developments on various Kinzinger fronts Sunday:
New SuperPac formed to back Kinzinger, other Republicans targeted by Trump
Kinzinger is raising money through his federal Future First PAC for his recently launched “Country First” campaign to drain Trump’s influence, fringe elements and conspiracy theory followers from the Republican Party.
Donations to that Kinzinger Future First political war chest are subject to federal contribution caps.
Allies of Kinzinger are creating “Americans Keeping Country First,” which will be able to take donations in unlimited sums.
“Americans Keeping Country First is the only Super PAC dedicated exclusively to protecting Republican members who voted to impeach or convict” Trump, the group said.
According to memos obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, this super PAC, first disclosed by the Washington Post, will be “dedicated solely to defending the Republican members of Congress who took votes of conscience to impeach or convict President Trump after rioters stormed the Capitol complex on January 6th, 2021.”
Even though this group cannot coordinate with Kinzinger’s political drives, he plans to headline events on its behalf where he will “promote” his Country First principles, the group said. This is allowed under Federal Election Commission rules.
The goal, the group said, is to “build a potent political operation that provides a counterweight to far-right candidates and groups that threaten primary campaigns against principled House Republican members.” Ardent Trump backer Catalina Lauf announced a Kinzinger 2022 GOP primary challenge. Kinzinger has not made his 2022 plans known.
Kinzinger on combating Trump-induced “fear”
Kinzinger, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday and in the release of a new video, tackled the “fear” he said is motivating Republicans rather than an “optimistic” view of the future.
As Kinzinger summed up in a tweet over his new “No Fear” video, “Make no mistake, FEAR is the enemy of America’s future. We must reject the politics of fear and ALL who practice it.”
On “Face the Nation,” Kinzinger said, “I think we are a party that’s been for too long pedaling in fear, using fear as a compelling way to get votes. And fear does motivate. But after a while, fear can destroy a country, can destroy narratives and it can destroy a democracy. And we have to quit peddling that.”
Kinzinger said he is waging a drive “to win a narrative” in the party by presenting “a competing alternative narrative” for “an optimistic, brighter future again, one we can be proud of, and one, where when we talk about things, we actually teach young people how to do politics in a way that we used to remember and appreciate.”
Kinzinger has no plans to leave the party. Trump said at CPAC he is “not starting a new party” and may run for president again in 2024.
On the table is whether Trumpism and loyalty to Trump defines the Republican Party.
Illinois GOP Party not pursuing Kinzinger censure
Several Illinois county GOP organizations and the Chicago Republican Party have censured Kinzinger in the wake of his impeachment vote. The Chicago GOP party vote on Feb. 23 was among 34 ward committeemen; the organization has 16 of those 50 ward spots unfilled.
What’s noteworthy is that the Illinois Republican Party is not pursuing a Kinzinger censure.
According to the GOP party spokesman, the view of the new state GOP party chair, Don Tracy, is that the state party “will not be censuring Congressman Kinzinger. His goal is to unite the party and stop the circular firing squad.”