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WASHINGTON — Describing President Trump’s phone call with Georgia’s top election official as “frightening,” an Illinois Republican congressman suggested that he now regrets his vote for the president and might even be open to a third party if his GOP colleagues continue to echo baseless conspiracy claims about a stolen election.
In an interview with Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast, Rep. Adam Kinzinger also said he is worried about the prospects for violence around the Capitol on Wednesday, when tens of thousands of Trump supporters are expected to show up for protests aimed at pressuring lawmakers to block Joe Biden’s election. Those protesters, he said, have been victimized by a “scam” perpetrated by Trump.
“I would say if I knew everything I know now, I’d probably think differently,” Kinzinger said when asked about his vote for Trump last November. While he had supported the president “based on policy,” Kinzinger said that Trump’s behavior since the election — questioning the legitimacy of the election and threatening “the underpinnings of democracy” — represents a “massive demarcation” in presidential behavior. He added at one point: “I’ll tell you everything I’m hearing is, he’s freaking out generally.”
Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot who represents a district southwest of Chicago, has been one of the few House Republicans to speak out against the president’s attempts to overturn the election. His increasingly critical comments illustrate the tensions and deep divisions that have broken out within the GOP this week as Trump has stepped up his demands that members of Congress take the extraordinary step of rejecting the Electoral College votes giving Joe Biden the presidency.
Kinzinger made clear that there is no expectation — even among the president’s supporters — that Congress will alter the results of the November election. A dozen GOP senators and senators-elect, and many more House Republicans, have indicated that they will raise objections to the Electoral College tally. Both the House and Senate would have to vote to sustain the objections, a virtual impossibility given the Democratic-controlled House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announced intention to oppose the effort.
But Kinzinger said he is still uncertain about his party’s future in the aftermath of Trump’s departure, especially if a sizable chunk of his GOP colleagues continue to falsely fan the flames about a “stolen” election. While acknowledging the legal and political barriers are high, Kinzinger said: “Look, if this party continues down this path, then I think there’s going to be room for a new party.”
Kinzinger spoke to “Skullduggery” on Monday, the day after the release of an hourlong phone call in which Trump repeatedly raised debunked claims about supposed voter fraud to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump further appeared to pressure Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to change his certification of the election results in the state and threatened him with criminal consequences if he did not. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said during the phone call, which was reportedly taped by Raffensperger’s office and leaked to the news media.
Download or subscribe on iTunes: ‘Skullduggery’ from Yahoo News
Kinzinger said he would leave it up to the FBI to determine whether Trump’s phone call should be investigated for criminal conduct. But he said, “The threat to the secretary of state — the veiled threats of law action — is frightening.”
The Illinois lawmaker said that he, like some others who have challenged the president’s false election claims, have received threats from Trump supporters and that he is increasingly concerned about the possibility of violence on Wednesday, when protesters are expected to show up in Washington — many of them with apparent plans to bring firearms to the nation’s capital, a violation of city law. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she had activated the National Guard to help the city’s police force control the protests.
Kinzinger insisted that many of Trump’s supporters have been riled up by a gigantic financial “scam” the president has perpetuated aimed at raising millions of dollars in cash that will primarily be used to bankroll his post-presidential activities.
“The president has raised more money on this than I think he did during the election,” Kinzinger said. “You think about the hardworking Americans, these Republicans that vote for me, that I represent, that, uh, you know, are so invested in the future of this country, God bless them for that, but they’re writing checks that in some cases are tough to afford because they believe in it that much. [And] to give it to a millionaire, or ... the other folks that are out there raising money on this, making amazing videos about how they’re gonna object, standing in front of adoring crowds to get the applause.
“It’s a scam and there’s not a single person that is part of this that actually thinks this has a chance in Hades. Nobody.”
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