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Despite rebuke of Trump, Rep. Kinzinger supports president, against impeachment inquiry

“It’s not treason,” Kinzinger said, disagreeing with Trump’s slam at Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat overseeing the impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., discussing President Donald Trump and impeachment at a Chicago field hearing on gun violence held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee at Kennedy-King College in Englewood.
Photo by Lynn Sweet

Though Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., recently called a tweet from President Donald Trump “beyond repugnant” — making him one of the few Republicans willing to publicly criticize Trump — he said Thursday he backs the president and does not support impeachment.

For those who might have the impression Kinzinger was leading a charge against Trump, that’s not the case.

He’s carefully straddling the line from being an occasional Trump critic to a sometime Trump booster.

Still, Trump’s reelection campaign saw and did not ignore Kinzinger’s “beyond repugnant” and extracted a punishment, albeit one that Kinzinger didn’t seem to care about.

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Kinzinger’s “beyond repugnant” shot, delivered in his own tweet, resulted in Trump’s reelection campaign not naming him on Tuesday as an honorary Illinois co-chair of Trump’s 2020 bid in Illinois.

Of five GOP House members from Illinois, only Kinzinger wasn’t tapped to be part of the Illinois Trump “Victory effort.”

Kinzinger shrugged off being snubbed by the campaign. He made clear that his “beyond repugnant” criticism of the president was over a specific tweet and not about other issues related to Trump, escalating attacks on Democrats, the press, the whistleblower and more with the formal impeachment inquiry.

On Sept. 29, Trump, in a tweet, paraphrased a quote from the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Dallas megachurch and Fox News contributor: “ ... If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”

Kinzinger, an Air National Guard lieutenant colonel retorted in a tweet, “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. @realDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant.”

As for not being tapped for the Trump leadership team, Kinzinger said, “It’s fine. I don’t think it’s a decision probably the president made — probably his political operatives.”

Kinzinger does not regret that tweet.

“My view on it is this: Some people maybe took that tweet and jumped to this idea that I support impeachment. I don’t. I just didn’t think the president should be tweeting about civil war. I think that, you know, as a guy that’s seen war and also has been to significantly war-torn places.”

Trump has been raging at Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who is steering the impeachment inquiry, accusing him of treason.

“It’s not treason,” Kinzinger said Thursday. “He’s a congressman. If he violated any kind of law, then we will go from there. But I don’t know anything going on right now. Nobody does.”

Finding out what happened is the inquiry part of the impeachment inquiry.

Trump also accused the whistleblower — who alerted Congress about the Trump call to the Ukraine president where Trump sought dirt on his chief 2020 rival, Joe Biden — of being a “spy.”

“No, I would not say that,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger discussed Trump and impeachment at Kennedy-King City College in Englewood where he attended, as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a Chicago field hearing on the public health threat of gun violence.

House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee holds a Chicago field hearing Thursday at Kennedy-King College.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee held a Chicago field hearing Thursday at Kennedy-King College on the public health threat of gun violence.
Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Kinzinger to his credit, was the only Republican who showed up for the panel, chaired by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

Others from the Illinois House delegation attending were Reps. Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly and Jan Schakowsky, all Democrats and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sitting in as guests were Reps. Danny Davis and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Kinzinger met with reporters before and near the end of the hearing. He said all the focus about impeachment has “derailed” the Democratic agenda, a conclusion I disagree with. The hearing on gun violence showed how, even with the impeachment inquiry — and reporters asking Kinzinger a lot of questions about where he stands on Trump — which is with him, mainly — the work of the House continues.