The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois that aired Sunday, June 12, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: And we turn now to the violent extremism that took place on January 6 2021, which will be a topic again this week for the committee looking into that attack. Congressman Adam Kinzinger sits on the committee, and he joins us this morning from Channahon, Illinois. Good morning, Congressman.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: The committee is called the January 6 committee. But it seems from the first hearing that in fact, January 6 is encased in a larger argument that you’re making, that President Trump made a series of efforts to overthrow the election and the January 6 attack was just one of them.
REP. KINZINGER: Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly right. So you know, it is kind of unfortunate, we’re focused on the day of January 6, we understand why it was really the visible kind of symptom of everything that led up to it. But what’s important, and what we’re going to delve into this week, and on Wednesday, I’m actually leading a hearing specifically talking about the Justice Department moves. But you saw a president that spreads misinformation, tries to install his own people in to Justice to do his bidding- Justice, which is supposed to be, you know, representative of all of us, pressures the Vice President, and then eventually, when he can’t get his way, he tries to pressure Congress through- just- not just public pressure, but in a public attack. And so what’s very important to notice in that is, it is a whole set leading up to January 6, but I think the thing that’s most concerning to me is nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed since January 6, is now if they want to run that play again, they’re gonna put more loyal people into the administration earlier on. So it’s important for the American people to see this, to take ownership of this and make a decision for ourselves what kind of a country we want to live in.
JOHN DICKERSON: Who’s they congressman?
REP. KINZINGER: Say that again?
JOHN DICKERSON: You said they want to. Who is they?
REP. KINZINGER: Well, look, I mean, I think if Donald Trump gets elected again, there is no doubt in my mind, zero doubt, that he will instead of screening candidates, like he probably did, when he got elected in 2016, for you know, qualifications, he’s going to screen people based on their loyalty to him. Now, I don’t know if that would go beyond anybody else but him. But I think it’s important for us as a country to recognize that, to recognize the importance that the oath to the United States plays. I mean, John, we could pass any law in this country. But if we have people in power, whether it’s in politics, or law enforcement, or the military, if we have any people that are unwilling to put their oath above any loyalty to a person, no law matters. So what matters and the bottom line is that we as a country recognize even when we’re on the receiving end of politics, even when we don’t get our way, if we follow through our oath, that basic compact of self governance will work, otherwise it won’t.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about one of the findings on Thursday evening, one of the things we were shown for the first time is several people close to the president telling him there was no widespread fraud, he was going to lose, that’s what the numbers showed. How many people do you think in his- close to him were sending him that message?
REP. KINZINGER: Well, I look, we’re gonna get more into that. But let me just say this, I don’t really know many people around him that truly believed the election was stolen and told him so–
JOHN DICKERSON: Do you–
REP. KINZINGER: –He had a lot of people- He had a lot of people that told him it wasn’t.
JOHN DICKERSON: Do- were there people who knew it was a lie and yet carried on in his inner circle?
REP. KINZINGER: Oh, for sure. I mean, look, all you have to do is look at- he was surrounded by yes, people that want to come and tell him everything that pleases Him. You know, and we’ll get more into that. I don’t want to really kind of spoil the deep dive into some of this stuff. But look, I think if anybody truly believed after, you know, the- after what you see, after what the attorney general says, for instance, after what every piece of information comes in, if you truly believe the election was stolen then, if the president truly believed that, for instance, he’s not mentally capable to be president. I think he didn’t believe it. I think the people around him didn’t believe it. This was all about keeping power against the will of the American people.
JOHN DICKERSON: But just to put a fine point on exactly what you’re accusing the president of, during COVID, President Trump at the time said it’s- it’s like the flu but later we heard Bob Woodward had audio of the President saying no, it’s nothing like the flu. So he was saying something out loud. He hit was on record, in private, saying the absolute opposite of. Do you have evidence of that? About this?
REP. KINZINGER: Well- I won’t go into- again, I don’t want to go into the evidence that we haven’t put out yet. Let me tell you my belief that I can say right now, the president absolutely tried to overthrow the will of the people and he tried to do it initially through misinformation, through the Department of Justice, through pressuring the Vice President, and then on January 6. And he was told repeatedly by people that he trusted, that he respected people like, you know, folks around him, that the election wasn’t stolen, that there is no corroborating proof of any kind of a stealing or any kind of a corruption that would- that would change the outcome. And so I think it’s pretty obvious he knew, but he didn’t want to lose.
JOHN DICKERSON: And let me ask you about pardons. This was another one of the disclosures from the hearing, how many pardons are we talking about? And why were they asking for pardons?
REP. KINZINGER: Well look, more of that’s going to be released this week. In fact, we’re going to talk a little about that in my hearing. But, why would you ask for a pardon? Let’s just say, in general, if somebody asked for a pardon, it would be because they have real concern that maybe they’ve done something illegal–
JOHN DICKERSON: So–
REP. KINZINGER: –I’ll leave it at that. But I’ll say that more information will be coming.
JOHN DICKERSON: Your colleague, Congressman Perry denied that he asked for a pardon. He’s one of those ones who was named. the notion that I ever sought a presidential pardon said the congressman, for myself or other members of Congress is an absolute shameless and solace lie. Is the testimony you have hearsay or do you have the goods?
REP. KINZINGER: Well, look, like I said, I don’t want to tip my hand on this. We’ll- we’ll put out what we need to put out. But we’re not going to make accusations or say things without proof or evidence backing it.
JOHN DICKERSON: One of the other disclosures in the- in the hearings on Thursday night was the role of the Proud Boys. Quite a lot that- that was painstakingly put forward. Some people have said, well, one of the things you proved is the Proud Boys were on the march before President Trump gave his speech on January 6. So if they were already off to- to march, how could President Trump have incited them? What’s your- what’s your response to that comment?
REP. KINZINGER: Well, again, I think what we wanted to do Thursday is show the top lines of what happened with some kind of overall things to be aware of, more information will come out on that. But let’s keep in mind, the- the whole thing on January 6, and the violence wasn’t just about the president standing on stage saying what he was saying. It was also about tweets, about this will be wild, January 6 will be wild, come out to January 6, knowing darn well that he was spewing out lies before the American people. So we’ll take a look. We’ll see. But here’s the other thing. We are inundated with people saying this was the FBI. I mean, that you now see members of Congress, again talking about the Ray Epps conspiracy that somehow he was a informant for the FBI that said a word into somebody’s ear, and that led to all these people doing an insurrection. It’s garbage but that’s the kind of misinformation that’s coming back again. And by the way, John, I gotta tell you, people like Ted Cruz, people like Massie, people like Sheriff Troy Nehls have been repeating this conspiracy.
JOHN DICKERSON: 20 seconds left. Another thing I wanted to get to is, the president has claimed that he in fact, did reach out to the National Guard. Your testimony showed Mike Pence had to jump in when the president wouldn’t. What is your response to the president’s claim?
REP. KINZINGER: I think it’s very obvious the President didn’t do anything but gleefully watch television while this was going down. He can say anything he wants. The real leader, the only person in charge that made those calls was Mike Pence. We’ll prove that.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Congressman Kinzinger, thank you so much for being with us. Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism