Kinzinger speaks out on leaving Congress, 'cancer' in the Republican Party

"It’s not on Liz Cheney and I to save the Republican Party," Kinzinger said.

October 31, 2021, 9:29 AM

After announcing on Friday that he would not seek reelection to Congress in 2022, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Sunday he, Rep. Liz Cheney and "a few others" are the only House Republicans "telling the truth" about the 2020 election and its aftermath.

"You can fight to try to tell the truth, you can fight against the cancer in the Republican Party of lies of conspiracy of dishonesty," Kinzinger told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos exclusively in his first interview since the announcement. "There are about 190 people in the Republican Party that aren't going to say a word, and there's a leader of the Republican caucus that is embracing Donald Trump with all he can."

The Illinois GOP congressman is one of the most prominent critics of former President Donald Trump. He was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 -- and he’s one of two serving on the House committee investigating the attack.

Kinzinger said in a video posted to Twitter the "time is now" to move on from serving in Congress.

"In order to break the narrative, I cannot focus on both a real election to Congress and a broader fight nationwide," he said in the five-minute video. "I want to make it clear, this isn't the end of my political future, but the beginning."

Stephanopoulos pressed Kinzinger on what led him to make the decision.

"Just a month ago, you were confident you were going to run again, what changed? Was it the redistricting plan that was put forward by Democrats in Illinois that basically squeezed you out of your district?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"It's a couple of things -- it's sitting back and saying, 'OK, what happens if I win again?' I go back, and Republicans will probably be in the majority," Kinzinger responded. "I’m going to be fighting even harder on some of these things, and it's been obvious over the last 10 months that nobody ... I haven't seen any momentum in the party move away from lies and toward truth."

"Ten years ago, the Democrats in Illinois came after me, and threw me with an incumbent Republican, and they did it again -- I’m not complaining, it's redistricting," he added. "But when Democrats do say they want Republican partners to tell the truth, and then they specifically target me, it makes you wonder."

Responding to the news of Kinzinger's retirement from Congress, Trump wrote "2 down, 8 to go!" in a statement referencing the 10 GOP representatives who voted to impeach him. Kinzinger became the second of the group to announce they would not run for reelection after Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, did so in September.

Stephanopoulos pressed Kinzinger on whether his announcement handed Trump "another win."

"Potentially, but I don't think it was my decision that would hand Donald Trump a win," Kinzinger responded. "I think it is -- it's the situation we find ourselves in."

Kinzinger said if Trump runs for president again in 2024, "he'll be the front-runner no doubt."

"The Republican establishment now -- whether it's the [National Republican Congressional Committee], whether it's Kevin McCarthy -- have held onto Donald Trump," he said. "They have continued to breathe life into him, and so actually, it's not handing a win as much to Donald Trump as it is to the cancerous kind of lies and conspiracy" that are now the "mainstream argument of the Republican Party."

"It's not on Liz Cheney and I to save the Republican Party," Kinzinger added. "It's on the 190 Republicans who haven't said a dang word about it, and they put their head in the sand and hope somebody else comes along and does something."

Kinzinger and Cheney are the sole Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee. A new court filing released early Saturday morning revealed some of the records Trump is attempting to block the National Archives from turning over to the committee, including call logs, schedules, daily presidential diaries and information on White House visitors.

"I think if you look at that archive request and what the former president is trying to block, it is very telling," Kinzinger said. "We are going to fight as hard as we can to get that, and the president has no grounds to claim executive privilege as he is today."

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether the committee will have enough evidence to prosecute the former president, Kinzinger said he’s not comfortable making that statement yet but said the committee is continuing to learn new information every day.

"If the president was aware of what was going to happen, didn't do anything -- didn't lift a finger to do anything about it, that's up to the DOJ to make that decision," he said.

Related Topics