ABC News: 'This Week' Transcript 10-31-21: Secretary Pete Buttigieg & Rep. Adam Kinzinger

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of only ten GOP members who voted to impeach Donald Trump, one of only two serving on the January 6th committee. He announced on Friday that he would not run again next year.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I cannot focus on both a re-election to Congress and a broader fight nationwide. I want to make it clear: this isn't the end of my political future, but the beginning.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congressman Kinzinger joins us now.

Thank you for joining us this morning, Congressman.

What is that broader fight? How are you going to take it on?

KINZINGER: Yeah, with the broader fight, you can -- in the House, as hard as 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, and you ultimately come to the realization that basically, it's me, Liz Cheney, and a few others that are telling the truth, and 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.

So the broader fight is look -- and I started Country First, by the way,

And the point is, there's a lot of people that feel politically homeless, there's a lot of people that feel like something has to change in our politics, and I think it's important to jump in with both feet and see where that goes, see if there that's market out there because what's happening, we're failing the American people right now. The political system is failing and the Republicans in particular.

STEPHANOPOULOS: 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?

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

And the other thing is keep in mind, George, 10 years ago, the Democrats in Illinois came after me, and turned me with an incumbent Republican and they did it again. I’m not complaining. It's redistricting. I get it. It's being done and abused everywhere.

But when Democrats do say they want, you know, Republican partners to tell the truth, and then they specifically target me, it makes you wonder.

But I’m going to stay in. I’m still in for the next 14 months, and I’m excited to continue on the January 6th Commission to give people the truth of what happened because they deserve that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump took a victory lap after your announcement. He said, two down, eight to go, referring to the 10 Republicans -- House Republicans who voted to impeach him.

You know, a month ago when Anthony Gonzalez, one of the other ten said he wasn't running again, you said that was a win for President Trump.

Did you hand him another win?

KINZINGER: You know, potentially. But I don't think it was my decision that would hand Donald Trump a win. I think it is -- it's the situation we find ourselves in.

Here's an interesting thing, like, Donald Trump -- he puts out -- you know, I think he said, two down, eight to go. That's about the only ink he gets from that. He's kind of just tweeting or press releasing from Mar-a-Lago.

But I actually think what's going on here is if he runs in 2024, he'll be the front-runner no doubt. But I think the Republican establishment now -- whether it's the NRCC, whether it's Kevin McCarthy -- have held onto Donald Trump, 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 lie and conspiracy not just wing anymore, but mainstream argument of the Republican Party.

This is not on, you know, the 10 of us that voted to impeach. It's not on Liz Cheney and I to save the Republican Party. 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that seems to be solidifying. You know, Chuck Grassley, 88 years old, senator from Iowa, is running again this year. He was quite critical of the president after the January 6th insurrection.

But here's what he said just last month in Iowa after he endorsed President Trump, and received his endorsement.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart. I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That's mainstream view.

KINZINGER: Oh, yes, I mean it's very telling. And if you're in politics, you know, solely to be in politics, and not to fight for something broader, it's a very logical position to take.

Where I'm optimistic, you know, I think we have to go through pretty low points in a country to really -- and every time in history to -- to emerge in a better way. I -- I've got to tell you, George, there have been thousands of people, tens of thousands, close to hundreds of thousands that have reached out that feel politically homeless as well, and that's what country first is about. It's not even about leaving the party, it's about saying, how do we do politics differently because this matrix of what we're convinced works. You have to be either this person. If you don't like Joe Biden you have to be for Donald Trump. My goodness, there's a vast array of options out there and whole, new ideas and solutions that we haven't even thought of yet.

I'm optimistic for the future, whether that means I'm in the House or something else or just fighting for this political cause.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right now you're on the January 6th Committee. As you said, we just learned yesterday that President Trump -- former President Trump is trying to seal hundreds of pages of documents with executive privilege. It does appear that his strategy, the strategy of some of your House Republican colleagues, is just try to drag this out as long as possible in the hopes that Republicans will take control of Congress next year.

KINZINGER: Oh, I 100 percent think that's what it is. Look, they -- they know if they can drag this out, and if the Republicans take the majority, they will kill this committee. Look, they killed an independent commission. They've killed any attempt to get to the truth. We have sources beyond just those that are kind of making the news, the Steve Bannons, you know, the archives. We have people coming in and talking to the committee every day.

But I think if you look at that archive request and what the former president is trying to block, it is very telling when you look at things like call logs, et cetera. Take that for what it's worth, but 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Based on what you've seen, do you think there are going to be grounds to prosecute President Trump for his role in the insurrection?

KINZINGER: You know, I don't feel comfortable making that statement yet. I'll say this. We're getting a lot of information. We -- we are continuing to learn things every day, some of which gets out to the press, some that doesn't.

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. We can put out the facts.

But I'll say this too, just from a raw, political perspective, if you want a president that can sit around and be more interested in doing things like watching television than actually protecting the seed (ph) of the Capitol of the United States and you want to put him back as president or you want to nominate him as president, don't come asking me why the party has failed in 2025 if you do something like that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Adam Kinzinger, thanks for your time this morning.

KINZINGER: Any time.

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