Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on a House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol, blamed GOP leader Kevin McCarthy for giving Donald Trump a political lifeline after the insurrection, opening the door for “crazy elements” in the soon-to-be Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“He is the reason Donald Trump is still a factor,” Mr Kinzinger told CNN on 1 January. “He is the reason that some of the crazy elements of the House still exist.”
The Illinois congressman is among several House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president for fuelling the assault on Congress in an attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election, which Mr Trump continues to falsely insist was “stolen” and “rigged” against him.
Mr Kinzinger said the GOP House leader had an opportunity to tell “the truth” in the wake of the attack but instead visited the former president’s Florida compound at Mar-a-Lago weeks later, effectively “resurrecting” Mr Trump’s political career.
The “second” that Mr McCarthy visited Mr Trump after he left office in January 2021, Republicans “begrudgingly” accepted him, Mr Kinzinger said.
“Donald Trump should consider Kevin McCarthy his best friend because Donald Trump is alive today politically because of Kevin McCarthy,” Mr Kinzinger said.
Mr Kinzinger and his Republican colleague on the House select committee, Liz Cheney, will not be returning to Congress this week. Mr Kinzinger did not seek re-election, and Ms Cheney lost a primary election to a Trump-backed challenger for control of her Wyoming seat in the House. All but two congressional Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump lost their primaries or did not seek reelection.
As the House select committee prepared to wind down its months-long work before the incoming Republican House majority, the panel voted on 19 December to refer Mr Trump to the US Department of Justice for four criminal charges, including obstruction, conspiracy and inciting an insurrection.
“Obviously what he did from a presidential perspective, from an oath perspective, is a problem,” Mr Kinzinger said of the former president. “If this is not a crime, I don’t know what is. If a president can incite an insurrection and not be held accountable, there’s really no limit to what a president can do or can’t do.”
Mr Kinzinger said he believes that “the Justice Department will do the right thing” following the committee’s referrals, which are nonbinding. Federal prosecutors are separately investigating the former president in connection with the attack.
“I think he will be charged, and frankly I think he should be,” he added. “If he is not guilty of a crime, I frankly fear for the future of this country, because now every future president can say, Hey, here is the bar. And the bar is do everything you can to stay in power.”
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