Former President Donald Trump committed crimes related to last year’s Capitol riot and should ideally be charged by the Justice Department, House Jan. 6 committee member Adam Kinzinger contended on Sunday.
“I certainly hope they’re moving forward,” Kinzinger, R-Ill., told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl of the Justice Department’s separate investigation into the events around the insurrection. “I certainly think there’s evidence of crimes, and I think it goes all the way up to Donald Trump.”
Kinzinger’s comments come after the House committee wrapped up its summer hearings, with the final session last week focusing on Trump’s inaction for 187 minutes as his supporters ransacked the Capitol.
Democrats and other Trump critics have expressed hope that the Justice Department’s probe will ultimately target the former president. Attorney General Merrick Garland has repeatedly stressed that prosecutors’ work and decision-making will not play out in public, but he pointedly noted last week that “no person” is above the law.
When pressed by Karl about the optics of the Justice Department investigating a former president and potential future candidate, Kinzinger said he is more concerned about the precedent that would be set if Trump is not charged.
“We never want to get in a position as a country [of] what you see in failed democracies, where every last administration is prosecuted. But there is a massive difference between ‘I’m gonna prosecute the last administration for political vengeance’ and not prosecuting an administration that literally attempted a failed coup. That is a precedent I’m way more concerned about,” Kinzinger said.
“If there is evidence that this happened from a judicial perspective, if there is the ability to move forward on prosecuting and you don’t, you basically set the floor for future behavior by any president,” he added. “And I don’t think a democracy can survive that.”
Karl asked Kinzinger about one of the most notable moments from the Jan. 6 hearings so far: when former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump physically lashed out after his Secret Service detailed refused to let him go to the Capitol with his supporters.
The Secret Service said soon after Hutchinson’s testimony that they would respond on the record.
“Why have you not spoken yet to the lead detail who was in that vehicle on Jan. 6 with Donald Trump or the driver of that vehicle? And is that going to come?” Karl asked.
Kinzinger insinuated the lack of new information on that front was because of the agency, not investigators.
“The committee is more than welcome, if they will testify under oath, to throw the doors wide open for them and welcome them at any moment. It is not our decision that they haven’t so far,” he said, calling Hutchinson a “very credible witness.”
Karl also asked Kinzinger about a conference call among House Republicans just days before the Jan. 6 attack. According to Kinzinger’s retelling in an interview with The Washington Post, the Illinois lawmaker warned House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that he was concerned about violence because voters had been “convinced … that the election was stolen,” and McCarthy replied, “Thanks, Adam. Next caller.” (McCarthy didn’t comment to the Post on Kinzinger’s account.)
“Would it have been different if he had stood up and he had said, ‘No, the election’s not stolen,’ and pushed back on this effort?” Karl said.
“It would be so different right now. Would he have been pushed aside in the process? Maybe,” Kinzinger said. “But the question is, what are you going to stand for in your life, you know? Are you going to go out being knowns as the guy that enabled a failed coup, or are you going to be the guy that goes out standing up, right?”
Kinzinger, a vocal member of the GOP’s anti-Trump minority, also lashed out at Republicans who echo Trump’s baseless doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election, suggesting they’re duping their voters. He called out McCarthy by name.
“Ladies and gentlemen, and particularly my Republican friends, your leaders, by and large, have been lying to you,” he said. “They know the election wasn’t stolen, but they’re going to send out fundraising requests, they’re going to take your money from you and they’re going to use you to stay in power. You’re being abused.”
He continued, “You can be mad at Liz Cheney and I — that’s fine. … We’re not the ones lying to you. It’s the people you think are telling you what you want to hear. They’re the liars, and Kevin McCarthy is among them.”