What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger on why he broke with Republicans and voted to impeach President Trump

Ten Republican members in the House of Representatives joined Democrats Wednesday in voting to impeach Donald Trump. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, is among a handful of Republicans who broke from their party to vote in favor of impeaching the president following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his decision.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now we will hear from members of Congress about how they voted in the second impeachment trial of President Trump.

    Joining me first is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He is one of the 10 Republicans who broke from their party to vote in favor of impeachment.

    Congressman Kinzinger, thank you very much for joining us.

    Explain to us why you decided to vote for impeaching President Trump.

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger:

    Well, look, this is a — this is a heavy day for America, but it's been really heavy for America prior to the election, but, more importantly, after the election, when the president began using the four years of having developed this argument and began executing on this idea that democracy doesn't work, the election was stolen.

    Of course, I had predicted violence for weeks leading up to the 6th, but the 6th was the culmination, hopefully the culmination, of that violence coming to here.

    And, look, when you have the president of the United States, the Article 2 part of the Constitution, incite and send and ignite a mob to attack the Article 1 branch, that is nothing short of an insurrection. I think most people can look at that and know that the president has both built the foundation and executed the command to do it.

    And if that is not impeachable, I don't know what is. Politics is important to a lot of people, but this is a moment that transcends politics and will be written and etched in history and in the arc of the future of this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Was this a hard decision for you, Congressman?

    I'm asking because, as you know, the majority of your Republican colleagues were saying, yes, they don't like necessarily what he said, but they don't think he's to blame for the entire insurrection, for the entire mob taking over the Capitol, and, in any event, he shouldn't be impeached over it.

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    Truthfully, it was not a hard decision.

    I mean, it was hard to go through with it because, bottom line is, you're impeaching a president a second time. It's never something that should be easily done. But I think the evidence was not something we had to go discover. It was brought right to us on the 6th.

    And I have been calling out conspiracy theories, particularly for the last year. And I have seen this foundation be developed. I have seen people not push back and bring light to darkness. And this was the culmination of it. It was not a difficult decision for me.

    I know the ramifications will be big. And — but that's not why I took this job, just to get reelected. I took it to make a difference, and this was absolutely important for the oath that I signed — or that I swore upon, not just as a member of Congress, but as a military member.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think the ramifications will be for you?

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    Well, I think it remains to be seen.

    I think there's going to be a real reckoning in the Republican Party. You know, what brought us to this point, and what's our future look like? I don't know who's going to win that, but I know I'm going to fight like hell to restore our conservative principles again and return respect to politics.

    So, I think we will find out. It could be an OK future, and it could be a future that I'm rejected because it's not the party I want to belong to anyway.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Kinzinger, I'm told we have an excerpt from President Trump's video that he has released, I guess within the hour.

    I'm going to play just a little bit of it and come back to you on the other side.

    Let's listen.

  • President Donald Trump:

    No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag.

    No true supporter of mine could ever threaten or harass their fellow Americans. If you do any of these things, you are not supporting our movement. You're attacking it, and you are attacking our country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Adam Kinzinger, what do you make of what the president just said?

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    Well, it's certainly a speech that I wish would have come out during this on the day. But I don't think this exonerates the president.

    All you have to do is look back at the base that was built, the lies that the election was stolen, despite the evidence, the misinformation that was sent to people, many of which are close to us that have been brainwashed to believe that this place is being run by a Satan pedophile ring like Q pushes.

    So, I'm glad the president said what he said, given the potential for future violence, but the bottom line is, he needed to be saying this a long time, and the election wasn't stolen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about the argument that a number of your colleagues made today that, why go through with this, when the president couldn't be removed from office?

    The Senate, we now know, is not going to take this up, at least Leader McConnell is saying won't take it up until the day before the inauguration, at the soonest, at the earliest. So, is it worth it, I guess, is the question, if President Trump lives out, sees out the rest of his time in office?

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    Well, I initially called for the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment, because it was immediate.

    I also didn't think it was necessarily wise to bring up impeachment, but the second I knew it was going to be in front of me, I had no doubt which way I'd vote. But I do think this is sending a very strong message.

    Everything out here is a precedent. If we allowed anything like what happened, which is unthinkable, to go without the Congress making a statement and preventing, A, Donald Trump from running again, but also coming on the record very forcefully that we respect our institutions, we respect the separation of powers, we could face this again.

    And every one of my colleagues out here would have lost their moral authority to ever be outraged again. And so I think it was the right thing to do. And, yes, there will be politics. There will be some more heat. But I think, in the long run, this is important for our country to heal and move on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you still have the vast majority of your Republican colleagues saying they still think there was a lot of fraud committed in this election, that it's just — that there are still questions about the legitimacy of Joe Biden's win.

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    So, it's one thing to be concerned about voter issues. It's another thing to say what is being said by these folks, and some of them.

    I mean, look, every video that's put out as evidence is, in its full context, debunked. All of these conspiracy theories have been debunked. And I think it's imperative and essential for the future of the republic and the Republican Party that we tell the truth, that we take the tough position, we don't avoid the temporary pain of telling people what they don't want to hear.

    And, instead, we can avoid the long-term pain of things like an insurrection. Yes, does the impeachment feel rushed? Sure. The president has seven days left. But all the evidence was there in front of us, and the bottom line is, this was the right move. I wish more had joined me.

    And I think, for every day that goes by, there's going to be more that wished they had too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who cast a very big vote today.

    Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

  • Adam Kinzinger:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment