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Rep. Adam Kinzinger delivers emotional opening statement at Jan. 6 hearing: 'Self-governance is at stake'

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·4 min read
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Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot by supporters of then-President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol, delivered an emotional opening statement Tuesday in which he took aim at members of his own party and praised the bravery of the police who battled rioters for hours. 

Addressing four Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers called to testify about the violence they endured from the mob that attacked them in an effort to prevent the certification of the Electoral College vote showing Joe Biden had won the presidential race, Kinzinger fought to hold back tears. 

“You guys may individually feel a little broken. You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with, you know, you talk about the impact of that day,” Kinzinger began before choking up. “But you guys won. You guys held.” 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., pauses as he speaks during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via AP)
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., at the House select committee hearing Tuesday on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)

His voice quavering, the Illinois Republican — who voted in January to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection — spoke of the need for his own party to engage in an honest look at what transpired on Jan. 6 and why. 

“You know, democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined from how we come back from bad days, how we take accountability for that. And for all the overheated rhetoric surrounding this committee, our mission is very simple: It’s to find the truth and it’s to ensure accountability.” 

Like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was also appointed to the committee by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Kinzinger has been sharply rebuked by members of his own party for both his outspoken denunciations of Trump and his participation in the Jan. 6 investigation. On Tuesday, he shot back at his GOP critics.  

“Like most Americans, I’m frustrated that six months after a deadly insurrection breached the United States Capitol for several hours on live television, we still don’t know exactly what happened. Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight,” Kinzinger said. “It’s toxic and it’s a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees in the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance — because self-governance is at stake.”

Yet Kinzinger also made a plea to his Republican colleagues to set aside their fealty to Trump, which he has argued is motivated by fear. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., listens during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., at Tuesday's hearing. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)

“This cannot continue to be a partisan fight. I’m a Republican, I’m a conservative, but in order to heal from the damage caused that day we need to call out the facts. It’s time to stop the outrage and the conspiracies that fueled the violence and division in this country, and, most importantly, we need to reject those that promote it.” 

Calling out the criticisms by Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that the House should instead be investigating the violent Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Kinzinger did not hide his disdain for that comparison. 

“Some have concocted a counternarrative to discredit this process on the grounds that we didn’t launch a similar investigation into the urban riots and looting last summer,” he said. “Mr. Chairman, I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman. I condemned those riots and destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-governance was threatened like I did on Jan. 6.” 

Like Cheney’s, Kinzinger’s political future has been put in doubt because he defied Trump and his ardent supporters. But on Tuesday he made clear that his aim extended beyond his own reelection.

“As a country, it’s time to learn from our past mistakes, rebuild stronger so this never happens again, and then we can move onward.”

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