Conservative downstate GOP lawmakers seek party censure of U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger for his role on Jan. 6 committee investigating Trump

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A group of downstate lawmakers aligned with Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey on Monday asked the Illinois Republican Party to censure U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger for his actions on the select House committee investigating the role of Donald Trump, who backs Bailey, in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In a statement, the five-member ultraconservative Illinois Freedom Caucus contended Kinzinger, a six-term Republican from Channahon, has “offered up little but incendiary language, wild exaggerations and personal opinions as so-called evidence of his baseless claims.”

The caucus members are part of what’s known informally as the “Eastern Bloc” of House Republicans, a group that includes Bailey and has encouraged separating Chicago from the rest of the state, contending the city and its Democratic leadership is at odds with their rural, conservative culture. The group also has opposed vaccine orders and other pandemic mitigation mandates.

“These hearings are a sham without any due process, and a ban on any witnesses for the accused,” Freedom Caucus member state Rep. Adam Niemerg of Dieterich said of the Jan. 6 hearings in a statement echoing Trump’s complaints. “We expect this from Democrats, but it is appalling to see Republicans like Adam Kinzinger to play such a prominent part in these proceedings. He should be censured by the Illinois Republican party for his actions.”

Bailey, who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, overwhelmingly won a six-way primary for the Republican nomination for governor on June 28, just days after receiving an endorsement from Trump that he had actively sought.

But the caucus’ attack on Kinzinger may be an unwelcome highlighting of Bailey’s association with the former president, who twice lost Illinois by 17 percentage points, as the wealthy farmer from Xenia tries to broaden his support among independent voters heading into a general election against first-term billionaire Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

U.S. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all five of his GOP selections to the panel after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed two of them for voting to decertify Electoral College results from the states and criticizing the investigation. Pelosi then invited Kinzinger and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, two Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to serve on the panel.

Other members of the state Freedom Caucus include state Reps. Chris Miller of Oakland, the husband of far-right and Trump-endorsed U.S. Rep. Mary Miller; Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville; Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City; and Dan Caulkins of Decatur. The caucus describes itself as advocating “limited government, lower taxes and accountability and integrity in government.”

In January of last year, Bailey went on social media to encourage the state GOP to call on Kinzinger to “stand down or outright condemn his latest personal and political attack on President Trump and the tens of millions of Americans who support the president.”

Bailey’s candidacy for governor also was endorsed by Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist and right-wing media promoter, who was convicted last week in federal court in Washington on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena for his testimony and documents.

In a statement, Bailey’s campaign did not directly address his allies’ criticism of Kinzinger but appeared to acknowledge Trump-created divisions within the state GOP.

“Darren is focused on uniting the party to defeat Gov. Pritzker in November and make Illinois a safe and affordable place for people to live. That’s what Republicans are rallying around. That is our priority,” Bailey campaign spokesman Joe DeBose said in a statement.

Kinzinger did not offer a comment.

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Kinzinger and Cheney were censured by the Republican National Committee in February for participating on the House committee in a resolution that contended the actions of Jan. 6 were “legitimate political discourse.”

The Wyoming Republican Party also censured Cheney in February of last year over her vote for Trump’s impeachment. Cheney is seeking reelection while Kinzinger opted not to seek another term after his home was mapped by Democrats into a district with GOP U.S. Rep. Darren LaHood of Peoria.

Three county GOP organizations in Kinzinger’s district voted last year to censure the congressman, who called the actions “petty.” But the state Republican Party stopped short of issuing a censure resolution against Kinzinger last year, instead offering a mild rebuke expressing “strong” disagreement with any Republican who voted for impeachment.

A censure declaration has no practical effect, except to serve as a label that the party no longer recognizes someone as a “Republican.”

Kinzinger has been an outspoken opponent of Trump and his continued influence over the national GOP and has sharply criticized McCarthy and other GOP members of Congress for continuing to embrace the former president and promulgate his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Kinzinger said the panel’s review has shown Trump committed crimes related to the Capitol riot and that he should be criminally charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

“I certainly think there’s evidence of crimes, and I think it goes all the way up to Donald Trump,” said Kinzinger, who helped lead last week’s most recent Jan. 6 committee hearing.

While he said the nation should not get into a pattern of regularly prosecuting previous administrations, “there is a massive difference between ‘I’m gonna prosecute the last administration for political vengeance’ and not prosecuting an administration that literally attempted a failed coup. That is a precedent I’m way more concerned about.”

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