NBC News: Meet the Press - January 9, 2022
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. A year ago, after the sacking of the U.S. Capitol, we asked this: Is this the end of something or the beginning? An aberration or a harbinger or where Trumpism was heading? We now know. The Grand Old Party is now Donald Trump's party. He lost the election, but insists it was stolen, still, has never conceded. And elected Republicans, most of them at least, pretend to believe, believe him because the voters already do, at least on that side of the aisle. On Thursday's January 6th anniversary, Republicans divided into three groups; the conspiracy spreaders; members who condemned the riot of the day, but not the man who inspired it; and the few who called it what it was, a violent attack on our democracy. Well, joining me now is Congressman Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois. He's one of the few Republicans who has publicly criticized former President Trump. He is also one of two Republicans on the House committee investigating January 6th. Congressman Kinzinger, welcome back to Meet The Press. Let me just start with this.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: You bet, good to be with you.
CHUCK TODD: I'm a pretty cynical guy. I've been doing this a long time. On January 7, 2021, I think I – I'm guessing you were there, too, I really thought, okay, this is it. This is the breaking point. Lindsey Graham, enough is enough, count me out. It all felt like a moment. How did, a year later, we go to a Republican Party that is more in the grips of Donald Trump than what it was on January 7, 2021?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: You know, I think we could probably spend a half an hour on it. I'll give you kind of the most recent. So, there's a lot of stuff that led up, but the most recent is January 7th, I'll tell you, within my Republican caucus, there was a lot of silence, a lot of discussion, where do we go from here, this was wrong. And something happened two weeks later, which is Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago. And it caught everybody off guard. They were shocked. But in that picture he had with Donald Trump, and I think Kevin had told us something like, "Oh, I just happened to be in Florida and he wanted to meet, so I was going to meet with him." No, that was an intentional meeting. That took like these, you know, the paddles that you see on the TV shows and resurrected Donald Trump back to life. And I think that one – I think when history looks back, it'll be Kevin's meeting with Donald Trump which actually made him as an immediate of a force as it was. He may have come back, but I think that was a very important meeting.
CHUCK TODD: Did Donald Trump reveal what the Republican Party is or change it?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: You know, I think it's actually a little bit of both. So, I think, on the one hand, Donald Trump is a symptom of years and years of leaders, you know, profit-driven radio shows, whatever, turning the base into this angry, fearful, you know, victimized group of people. Or saying, look, you can never get a fair shot. You know, as time goes by, you're going to lose more and more political power. Keep in mind, Republicans still won just about half of every – races, but then Donald Trump came along and, I think unintentionally, because I think he just wanted to be, you know, that guy –
CHUCK TODD: Right –
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: – unintentionally got in front of the wave where people wanted somebody to blow stuff up. I think it's a little of both. I think it's fed off each other. The problem is leaders have to now interdict this fear and anger cycle and they're not doing it. They're instead hiding.
CHUCK TODD: Look, you are one of the few Republicans that wants to fight within the Republican Party to change it. I want to play a video you put out earlier this week and ask you about it on the other side.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER:
On this anniversary of January 6th, let's confront the anger, fear, and hopelessness that brought that dark day about. Victory won't come in a day, a month, or even a year, but victory will come, I promise you that.
CHUCK TODD: You've started your Country First Organization, but I've got to ask, what are you running for? Because you've announced you're not running for re-election. You announced earlier this week you would not be a candidate for governor. And I think there are Republicans sort of who would like to see the Trumpist wing out of the party who want to see you run for something and combat this and push back. So, what are you running for?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Well, look, I think that was part of the battle, is like, you know, do you stay in the House? Do you deal with, every day, the kind of stupid arguments we have that are the same and trying to get your 200 views on C-SPAN by arguing on the House floor? That's an important role. I've done it for 12 years after this. And I'm more passionate about the country. What is that role next in terms of running for anything? I don't know, but I know that this Country First movement, which by the way Country1st.com, has blown up. I know that is a force of people that are angry and I'm going to go with this. We're going to get involved in primaries. We're announcing a program at the end of January. And it's not even just about the Republican Party, though I think it's important. It's about just restoring our ability to talk to each other and calling out the abuse that is happening of our voters every time they get that email that says, "Send me 20 bucks, otherwise, you know, X-Y-Z, Pelosi's going to kill your family." That is abuse of our voters and they need to hear it.
CHUCK TODD: You know, the biggest problem you have, though, is the information echo chamber, if you will. You have sort of misinformation peddlers that, you know, people say, "You in the media need to stand up and tell the truth." Well, there's a good portion of us that do, but 30% of the country doesn't watch it. You know, you've got an algorithm that Facebook has essentially mainlined this garbage into people's intellectual veins, if you will. How do you change that?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: You know, I wish I had the answer because that is, especially in the last year, something that I've been even increasingly more concerned about. I always believed there would be enough crossover that truth would kind of prevail. The last year has taught me that there are people that live in a totally different reality. All you can do, all I can do, is tell the truth and talk about the abuse because I think if people wake up to the fact that they are actually being financially and emotionally abused by leaders, maybe that'll be enough to awaken this giant, this change. But I'm going to tell you, if there's nothing to interdict this cycle in five or ten years, we're in trouble.
CHUCK TODD: Let me move to the January 6th Committee. And I know you're always very hesitant to get in front of the chair and the vice chair. So, I'll get that caveat out of the way. If you got no more information submitted to this committee right now, how much of the story do you think you have?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: I think a significant part. I think where we're at right now, we know a lot of the narrative. And as I've said, I think the most important thing is not even the day of January 6th; it's what led to it. We have a lot of what's out there in the public venue, what the president, himself, said. The fact that he was watching for three hours on TV, probably gleefully, while this happened. So, I think if everything shut down today, we'd be able to put out a powerful and substantive narrative. We still have more information, obviously, we want to get.
CHUCK TODD: All right, let me try to – give me one thing you don't have yet that you really think you need. You know, a witness or that you really – or you need to understand that would make this a stronger report.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: You know, I think the one thing that, if I could wave a magic wand and have more information on, it would certainly be what did the president know about January 6th leading up to January 6th. And I think what's important is, it’s the difference between was the president absolutely incompetent or a coward on the 6th when he didn't do anything or did he know what was coming? And I think that's the difference between incompetence with your oath and possibly criminal. That's where I want to get more information. We do have, obviously, some things leading up to that, but the more information we can get, obviously, the better.
CHUCK TODD: Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois. I think the last time I had you on, I made mention that you represented a part of where my family grew up. It's a wonderful part of the state. Thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: It's cool. You bet.
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