Outgoing Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of only two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, says the panel’s work might not immediately change Americans’ minds about what led to the deadly riot.
Even though a lot of people are emotionally invested in a certain narrative because of Donald Trump, when the emotion wears away, the next generation of leaders will know the truth, he said.
“I think the impact may not be immediate in the Jan. 6 committee, but in the long term it will be the thing that protects us from something like this again,” Kinzinger told reporters Thursday.
Kinzinger, of Illinois, was in Utah campaigning for independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin. In addition to talking about his work on the committee, he took a few shots at McMullin’s opponent, incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Lee, at a forum before an overflow crowd at the Salt Lake City Public Library.
Through his Country First PAC, Kinzinger, a fierce critic of Trump and election deniers in the GOP, has endorsed Republican, Democratic and independent candidates around the country.
Kinzinger said McMullin has a chance to bring about change.
“This is the best opportunity I see in the country, and I mean that, to send a message, to build something new, to send somebody (to Washington) that can change the status quo,” said Kinzinger, who is not seeking reelection after 12 years in Congress.
McMullin said he won’t caucus with Republicans or Democrats if elected, even if the Senate remains evenly split as it is now.
“I’m not going to Washington to play the party power game. I’m just not doing it,” he told reporters after the forum. “The parties are going to have to decide what this means for them. I’m not running to represent them.”
Kinzinger said with McMullin in office, Utah would have “two very influential” senators. He said it “means a lot” that Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has not endorsed a candidate in the race. Lee recently pleaded for Romney’s endorsement on a national news program.
In addition to giving good evidence to the Department of Justice, Kinzinger said he hopes the investigative committee’s work reminds people that Jan. 6 is not the issue.
“The issue is what led to Jan. 6, and nothing has changed. It is still acceptable to lie to the American people and tell them the election was stolen. If you’re Mike Lee, it’s still acceptable to say Donald Trump is the future of the party and the leader of the party. It’s still acceptable to carry a pocket Constitution and say you follow the Constitution when you obviously betrayed the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
Lee carries a small copy of the Constitution with him and frequently pulls it out during speeches and other public gatherings.
“If I had a pocket Constitution, I wouldn’t be able to find fake electors in that pocket Constitution,” Kinzinger said during the forum.
McMullin said when he sees people like Lee try to recruit fake electors to overturn an election and hold on to power, the country is drifting away from its ideals. Lee has said there’s no evidence to show that he ever supported the fake electors plot, and that he honors and follows the Constitution.
Kinzinger’s appearance comes on the heels of a tense debate between Lee and McMullin less than three weeks before Election Day. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows a close race between Lee and McMullin. Lee’s campaign says its poll shows the senator with a double-digit lead, while surveys for McMullin have him ahead.
“In the final days of a campaign candidates trailing in the polls make accusations that are designed to scare and divide,” said Matt Lusty, Lee campaign spokesman.
“Sen. Lee is committed to campaigning on his conservative vision for our country that aligns with the values of Utahns and is backed up with a track record of standing up for our Constitution.”