The Adam Kinzinger media lovefest rolls on, as the former Republican congressman sells his book boasting about how he became a "traitor" to Republicans, serving on the House January 6 committee (hand-picked to serve by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He retained his anti-Republican talking points on Wednesday’s Amanpour & Co., which airs on taxpayer-funded PBS. The liberal media’s ideal Republican, groomed for CNN, the former Illinois congressman now votes Democrat and wants you to to as well, warning in his new book Renegade: My Life in Faith, the Military, and Defending America from Trump's Attack on Democracy that the Republican Party no longer believes in democracy.
Is it any wonder the mainstream media is so eager to talk to him as the 2024 presidential campaign approaches?
Host Christiane Amanpour called Kinzinger “an outcast in his own party” while setting up his talk with journalist Michel Martin, who quizzed him about the election of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as Speaker of the House. Martin noted Johnson “was one of the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election,” setting up the former congressman to call it “a frightening moment.”
Talk turned inevitably to the Capitol Hill riots, described as a war zone in the Air Force veteran's book;
Martin: Let's go back to January 6th, OK? You write about watching the events of that day unfold. You said, ‘I felt my faith in humanity draining from me. Civilians playing soldier in tactical gear, helmets, bulletproof vests, and other body armor, wielding bats, toxic sprays, tasers, and battering rams made from two-by-fours were waging a medieval battle against the police, threatening the lives of the people inside, and showing no sign that they felt there was a limit to their actions. In short, in that moment, I no longer felt that people were basically good.’
You know, that just brings up so much because, you are a person who actually experienced combat. I mean, you were actually in a war, right? And so, you've seen that. You know what that is. But could you just -- could you say more about like, all the things that you experienced that day?
Kinzinger again admitted he’s not really a Republican any more (even as the press treats him as the conscience of the party) and urged listeners to vote Democrat in 2024.
Kinzinger: .…I do think, though, that the Republican Party has to lose more elections and frankly, has to burn down to save it. I voted Democratic last election. I'll vote Democratic this coming election because in my mind, there's only one issue on the ballot, that issue is, do you believe in democracy or do you not believe in democracy? If you don't, I got a party for you. If you do, right now, there's only one party that shows a real commitment to democracy.
Host Amanpour wrapped things up by advancing Kinzinger’s Democratic-convenient hyperbole (a kicker left out of the PBS version of Amanpour’s CNN International show):
Amanpour: And as Kinzinger said, there's only one thing on the ballot for 2024, are you pro-democracy or against it?
In other words, get out there and vote Democrat!
A transcript is available, click “Expand.”
Amanpour & Co. PBS/CNN International
2:06:33 a.m. (ET)
AMANPOUR: Well, you are certainly speaking up. And as, you know, founder of Moderna, you've also got a lot of exciting new vaccines and therapies on the books. And I'm afraid we're out of time, but that's for another discussion. Thank you so much indeed. Next to the U.S., where division continues to plague the Republican Party. The Senate GOP is still split over tying aid for Ukraine with Israel funding. Former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger knows that dysfunction all too well. His new memoir, "Renegade," explored how he served on the January 6th House Select Committee as an outcast in his own party, and he joins Michel Martin now.
MICHEL MARTIN, JOURNALIST: Thanks, Christiane. Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much for joining us.
FMR. REP. ADAM KINZINGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: As we are speaking now, it's just been a couple of days since Representative Mike Johnson, a former colleague of yours, was elected speaker of the house. He was one of the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election.
A "New York Times" report said that he was the most important architect of the Electoral College objections, and he won the speakership unanimously.
And of course, that came after a lot of sort of Sturm and Drang in the caucus. But I just wondered, what was your reaction to that? What do you think it means?
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, it's a frightening moment, especially if you take the split screen of, I think basically that same day, Jenna Ellis is on television reading out a confession in Georgia, you know, that came on the heels of two or three other people that have cut plea deals. And so, you look at that going on, which is this kind of like revelation of truth compared to the barrier for entry to even be considered as a speaker candidate for the GOP is you have to have objected, at least, to the election certification. And Mike Johnson goes a step further.
So, Jim Jordan, I would say, is kind of the quarterback of all the stuff that happened between the White House and Congress. But within Congress, one of the very first to move to actually put Congress on the record was Mike Johnson. He even came up to me particularly at one time and said, will you sign on to this Texas lawsuit? And I'm like, Mike, you must not know me very well. Of course, I'm not going to sign on to it.
And, so, you know, he dresses well, speaks well, but he's the same insurrectionist you would have seen in somebody like a Jim Jordan.
MARTIN: Do you know him at all?
KINZINGER: I don't know him well. I knew Jim Jordan fairly well. Mike, you know, he kind of ran in different social circles. We weren't great buddies, but, you know, I definitely did interact with him. And like I said, he can put up a good kind of professional front, but behind that, particularly behind the spiritual side of what he says he is, there's these lies of a stolen election, and I think he's smart enough to know it wasn't stolen, and I think that's what confuses me even more than anything.
MARTIN: Well, you know, honestly, I think that's what confuses a lot of people in the public. I mean, we're constantly hearing the people who cover the Congress, for example, say things like -- reporters who cover Congress saying they don't really believe that, but this is what they have to do to survive politically. But then other people say that that's patronizing and wrong, that they absolutely believe it and that they're acting in good faith. And it's just hard to kind of put all those thoughts together, which is true.
KINZINGER: I mean, look, I think if you would go back before the last election, the vast majority, I could probably count on one hand, the number of congressmen and women in the GOP that probably thought the election was stolen. The rest would -- I would call them the 80 percenters, the ones who just want to keep their head down and survive. Oh, this isn't my fight. I'll say what I need to say.
Now, you have a lot more in this last election cycle because who went up to run? The people that actually believe the election was stolen. So, you have more in Congress now. But I think if you put the vast majority of the Republican caucus on CIA truth serum and you ask them, you know, was the election stolen? They'll tell you it wasn't. They know it. It's just, there's this mentality now of -- from their perspective, we have to fight the Democrats and win at all costs. And that includes the defense of a frankly attempted coup. And I just think it's wrong.
MARTIN: So, let's talk about the book because your book, "Renegade," describes that, all sort of the lead up to that and how you saw it unfold.
You served on the January 6th Committee. You were one of only two Republicans who agreed to serve. You were heavily ostracized as a consequence of that decision to serve. Not only that, you were the subject of threats. What is this book for? I mean, is it you really -- do you feel you can persuade people at this point or is it you just want to set the record straight, or what's it for at this point?
KINZINGER: You know, and it was a good question because when the idea of writing a book was brought up to me and it -- you know, it's kind of like I somebody had once told me they're like writing a book about yourself is an inherently arrogant feeling experience, because it's like, well, why would anybody be interested in my story? But then I realized that my story tells this broader picture.
So, it -- you know, I can talk about the things I did wrong. I can talk about where I've seen the party go and how -- you know, yes, you could see these indications of what it was sliding to, but they got bigger and bigger, and Donald Trump accelerated that. And I think that's important for a couple reasons.
Number one, I think everybody needs to understand, particularly in a democracy where you only have two parties for the most part, that one is very sick. And how did it become sick? Because it's an understanding the virus and the disease that you can come with the solution. The other thing is, it's not really written as this, but it's something important to say, is a warning to my friends in the Democratic Party, which is, look for these kinds of signs. Because I never thought anything like this could happen to the Republican Party. And most Democrats don't think it could happen to the Democratic Party, but it can.
And so, watch for these signs and know when you're starting to compromise what are -- I mean, you have to compromise in politics, that's the essence of it. But when are you compromising those core values that that commitment to the oath and when does it get too far? Because I can tell you -- and all of these moments, particularly since 2016, there are so many defining times where the party itself could have stood up and said, no more. And I think Donald Trump would have been defeated and we'd be in a much different place, but cowardice ruled the day. And I think it's important to recognize that virus to fix it.
MARTIN: Yes. You know, you -- you're pretty hard on yourself in this book, I have to say. You say -- you know, you were first elected to Congress in 2010, the 2010 midterm elections. People -- I think a lot of people will remember that was the so-called sort of Tea Party wave. And this is what you say. You say, I feel some responsibility for January 6th, if only because I was a participant in and witness to the GOP's gradual descent into a dysfunctional and destructive force in our politics. Intoxicated by my status and addicted to the level of attention, I made compromises to feed my ego and sense of importance. When did you -- when did that start?
KINZINGER: I mean, it kind of starts all at the beginning. I mean, I think if you run for office, you have to have a healthy ego. And any politician, let's just take Congress, congressman or woman that tells you they don't have a sense of ego and it is either lying to you or probably will never win because you have to think, I'm going to represent 700,000 people. I'm the best person to do it. That takes pretty healthy dose of that.
But what I started to recognize is, you know, I went in, I was one of the youngest members of Congress, one of the first post 9/11 combat veterans.
So, I would be asked on TV all the time and, you know, the second you get done, your phone buzzes and everybody tells you like how great it was to see you on TV. And that's reaffirming. And then, you all of a sudden have to do it again. You feel like you're going to be forgotten if you don't.
And I think it's important for me in telling this story to recognize that and let people know that what a significant driving force is, because when we look at the autopsy of the GOP and you look at somebody like an Elise Stefanik from New York, you know, how is it that somebody that basically made their name on being this incredible moderate in the ilk of somebody like Paul Ryan has become such a fierce Donald Trump supporter like and point to the exact moment when she defended Donald Trump in the first impeachment and got an incredible amount of accolades on Twitter and from Donald Trump himself. She pivoted on a dime. I think it's important to understand that.
MARTIN: Let's go back to January 6th. OK. You write about watching the events of that day unfold. You said, I felt my faith in humanity draining from me. Civilians playing soldier in tactical gear, helmets, bulletproof vests, and other body armor, wielding bats, toxic sprays, tasers, and battering rams made from two-by-fours were waging a medieval battle against the police, threatening the lives of the people inside, and showing no sign that they felt there was a limit to their actions. In short, in that moment, I no longer felt that people were basically good.
You know, that just brings up so much because, you know, you are a person who actually experienced combat. I mean, you were actually in a war, right? And so, you've seen that. You know what that is. But could you just -- could you say more about like all the things that you experienced that day?
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, imagine going -- being a member of a party that, you know, you fell in love with because of its commitment to these democratic ideals, because of its commitment to order, law and order, and then seeing that actually that party is the thing that's created this explosion that we're at.
And, you know, for me watching, it was interesting. So, I'm a guardsman. And, you know, when I saw my first National Guard troops, I was very proud and also very sad at the same time. I was proud of them. I was sad that they were there. But I remember for about a week or two seeing anybody in any military gear kind of -- I don't want to use the word triggered me because that's too much of a word, but it kind of like took me back to thinking about these people climbing the stairs with -- stairs with military gear on attacking the Capitol. Most of them had never served a day in their life.
And what you get is this moment where there's a certain sector, particularly of men right now that feel like they need to fight for something bigger, but they're unwilling to do things like join the military or actually go help people. And so, somebody has come along and convince them that fighting on behalf of a certain political thing or fighting against the injustice of a stolen election is where they can find their meaning. And what you saw on that day was a lot of people on those stairs with that tactical gear pretending to be in a war because it made them, it scratched some itch that they couldn't scratch any other way they needed to. And that was frightening to me. And it also made me come to realize the importance of giving people a purpose to live for besides just fighting your fellow man.
MARTIN: What about your fellow lawmakers at that time? I mean, you know, a number of you had served -- both Democrats and Republicans had served, and one of the things, you know, we found out later is how many people kind of who use their military service to protect their fellow members, but I had to make you feel some kind of way to know that you had actually put on the uniform, been in combat, you know, and yet, you've got people who are egging them on who never had.
KINZINGER: Yes. It made me furious. And again, it made me furious because it's somebody pretending to be some kind of a patriot. And it still bothers me that they've tried to take that word and make it something that's not. You know, you can be on the left and right and be a patriot.
And so, it made me angry. It made me angry to know what I had fought for. That this was being really thrown away so quickly because somebody had been lied to because their patriotism, frankly, had been abused by the man at the top who told them that this election was stolen. And I mean, at one point I'm at my desk in my office and I never carried my gun to work except on January 6th. And I'm sitting there in my office with my gun out, entertaining the fact that I may actually have to fight and shoot my fellow Americans. And that's something where I just -- I still look back on, like, I can't believe we got to that point.
And, you know, look, it's -- the amazing thing, as you said, you know, how did your other lawmakers feel? What's amazing to me is that every other Republican at that moment, maybe with the exception of one or two, was feeling exactly how I was, but how quickly they were able to compromise that because it would have cost them their job had they spoken out.
MARTIN: You -- in fact, you write about this. I mean, in fact, the record is clear here that you immediately supported Donald Trump's impeachment in the aftermath of January 6th. You were the first member of Congress to call for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him because you believed he wasn't -- he was no longer fit to be president. Did any of your colleagues agree with you at that point
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, it's like, look, the ones that ultimately wouldn't agree with me were quiet when I called for that, because everybody – the amazing thing is we would meet as what's called a conference where all the Republican members get together. And it was almost silence in that room because nobody knew what to do. They didn't know where this was going to go. You know, what's next here. We were waiting for leadership to show. So, when I put out the video saying it's time for the 25th Amendment, get rid of them. I mean, you got some -- you know, some of the crazies that kept going on Twitter that would speak out, but for the most part, people just didn't say anything. And it was like that for a couple of weeks where people were trying to figure out what's next, where do we go? The thing that changed that -- and by the way, I can get to impeachment when I thought there were going to be 25 to vote for it. There ended up being 10. But the thing that really changed, the known trajectory of where the party was going to go was the second that Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago and he took that picture. To that point, there was still a lot of like, I don't know where we're going to go on this. The second that picture came out, you saw people kind of -- literally in some cases, kind of put their heads down and then go out and defend Donald Trump because they knew that's what they had to do to survive.
That, to me, was the first moment at which I realized this may be a bit of a much -- of a harder fight than I thought it was going to be after January 6th.
MARTIN: So, you said earlier and you said in the book that you still -- you think there is a way through this. What is it?
KINZINGER: Well, look, I look at 2028 and I say, there's going to be fully new candidates on both sides. There's going to be a chance for new idea, new blood and new energy. I think that when Donald Trump came along, the Republican base wanted to break the system. He didn't necessarily know that, but he was a break the system guy. I think there's a significant amount of America now that maybe doesn't even realize it that wants to fix the system, that wants to heal, that wants to bring the temperature down. And if you have a Barack Obama for the Democrats or a Ronald Reagan for the Republicans that comes along with an optimistic message, I think that can revolutionize everything.
I do think, though, that the Republican Party has to lose more elections and frankly, has to burn down to save it. I voted Democratic last election. I'll vote Democratic this coming election because in my mind, there's only one issue on the ballot, that issue is, do you believe in democracy or do you not believe in democracy? If you don't, I got a party for you. If you do, right now, there's only one party that shows a real commitment to democracy.
MARTIN: You also talk about though, that there are just systems that have been sort of created in order to keep the Republican Party in a permanent state of advantage. You do wonder why it is that Republicans don't, at some point, think that these same mechanisms could be turned against them.
KINZINGER: Well, it's exactly right. And ultimately, it comes down to how do you win elections? Well, you can either try to win it through manipulating the system, or you can try to win it through convincing people of your side. The problem with the Republicans right now is nobody knows what they actually stand for. I can't list a series of policies that the Republican Party believes in because their commitment is simply to whatever the latest thing Donald Trump says. And so, you have to use these systems like gerrymandering. And so -- look, but even with all that going on, the Republican lead is very thin right now. And I think they have -- they're going to have a hard time holding on to the House next year.
But I would say to my Democratic friends, don't take that for granted. There is a good chance Donald Trump can win the next election. So, work as if you're five points down every day.
MARTIN: As we are speaking now, you know, the former president faces legal challenges in a number of jurisdictions. I mean, you know, serious, you know, criminal charges and serious civil charges. A number of people in his inner circle -- I mean, these are not like outside antagonists, people who were closest to him have already pleaded guilty, but it doesn't seem to make any difference in how he's viewed by his core supporters, as it were. And I -- you know, how do you understand that?
KINZINGER: Well, I -- and I think you're right. I think, you know, it's -- here's a couple of reasons for that. Number one, Donald Trump is the tierone influencer, but there are tier two influencers in the party. And that's everybody that's on that stage running for president that's not Donald Trump.
Now, does any of them have the same influence as Donald Trump? No. But collectively, the Republicans are still watching what these folks are saying. And when Donald Trump gets indicted, and the response of all these tier two influencers is to say -- with the exception of Chris Christie, is to say, there is a two-tiered system of justice, Donald Trump is innocent, this is a witch hunt. Even Mike Pence said that, for goodness sakes. Then it's no doubt that the Republican Party is still going to rally behind Donald Trump because the other people they trust are reaffirming what Donald Trump is saying, which is, he's just a victim. And by the way, everybody loves to support a victim. Everybody loves to support an underdog. But the optimism to come out of this is this, we're still a country that even if one party has gone nuts, still takes the majority votes and creates a winner. And this is the opportunity where I don't think 51 plus percent of the American public is OK with a president who is facing felonies. We just need to make sure those people turn out to vote.
MARTIN: So, what's your job right now? What do you see as your task?
KINZINGER: Well, my task right now is to take care of my family, which is amazing to be able to do, and it's to be able to keep as much influence to
the extent of not within the GOP, but to try to bring these warnings forward to the American people so the Democratic Party can protect itself from the warnings that I saw so we can help to heal the Republican Party and grow the middle, grow the independent movement.
So, I have an organization, Country First, it's country1st.com, and it is nonpartisan, and we're just focused on recruiting and promoting people that
Republican or Democrat that put country over party. That's democracy building here at home. We actually do really good at helping to build institutions through NGOs overseas. We don't have any of that at home because we didn't think we needed it. We do need it. And so, that's what
I'm being -- I'm focusing on right now.
MARTIN: Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much for talking with us.
KINZINGER: You bet. Anytime.
AMANPOUR: And as Kinzinger said, there's only one thing on the ballot for 2024, are you for democracy or against it?