WASHINGTON — Choking back tears at the first meeting of the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks by a pro-Trump mob, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said, “I never expected today to be quite as emotional for me as it has been.”
Taking aim at GOP leaders, Kinzinger said, “my party has treated this as just a another partisan fight. It’s toxic.”
Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., are the two Republicans on the panel, both appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., prompting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to try to dismiss them as “Pelosi Republicans.”
McCarthy’s taunt bounced off Kinzinger and Cheney.
The Tuesday hearing showed how Kinzinger and Cheney are impervious to critics who say they never should have taken a Pelosi appointment or to speak out against former President Donald Trump’s lies, conspiracies and election denial that fueled the insurrectionists on Jan. 6.
Whatever the political consequences are from their choices, Kinzinger and Cheney seem content to let them play out. They are at peace with their decisions.
Their GOP critics who rely on cheap slogans or try to change the subject — making the absurd claim that 100% of the blame for the riot is on Pelosi — are Trump enablers, kissing his ring only because they need his help in 2022 to keep their seats and take back the House.
Kinzinger’s and Cheney’s decision to take on Trump and his GOP enablers has thrown them into the national spotlight since the Jan. 6 insurrection, where rioters wanted to block Congress from formalizing the election of Joe Biden as president.
The witnesses at the Tuesday hearing were two members of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and two from the Capitol Police.
In striking detail, backed up by video, the officers told the committee about the violence and the mob attacks they endured.
A tearful Kinzinger said, “You guys may, like, individually feel a little broken. You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with and, you know, you talk about the impact of that day. But you guys won. You guys held.
“Democracies are not defined by our bad days,” Kinzinger said, his voice cracking. “We’re defined by how we come back from bad days. How we take accountability for that. And for all the overheated rhetoric surrounding this committee, our mission is very simple: Let’s define the truth. And, it’s to ensure accountability.”
With the Republican Party overwhelmed by Trump, both Cheney and Kinzinger at the hearing pointedly laid out their impeccable conservative credentials. They have been fighting — and for now this is an uphill battle — to loosen Trump’s hold on the GOP.
“I’m a Republican, I’m a conservative. But in order to heal from the damage caused that day, we need to call out the facts. It’s time to stop the outrage and the conspiracies that fueled the violence and division in this country,” said Kinzinger. In January, after Trump’s election denialism fueled the Capitol attack, Kinzinger founded his “Country First” movement to try to free the party from Trump.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said, “I have been a conservative Republican since 1984, when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I’ve disagreed sharply on policy and politics, with almost every Democratic member of this committee, but in the end, we are one nation, under God, the Framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics.”
Trump and his GOP allies have said that any probe of the Jan. 6 attack must also investigate Black Lives Matter and the role “antifa” — a loosely organized left-wing protest movement — had in the protests and violence in several cities last summer.
Kinzinger forcefully addressed this.
“Some have concocted a counter narrative to discredit this process on the ground that we didn’t, on the grounds that we didn’t launch a similar investigation to the urban riots and looting last summer,” Kinzinger said.
“Mr. Chairman. I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsmen. I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted, but not once did I ever feel that the future of self-governance was threatened, like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime, even grave crimes, and a coup.”