Rep. Adam Kinzinger Monday accused GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy of ignoring his warnings of violence before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and said the California Republican’s leadership should be under fire rather than that of the third-ranking Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney.
“I actually thought the person that should have their leadership challenged was Kevin McCarthy after Jan. 6,” Kinzinger, R-Ill., said during an event with the National Press Club on Monday.
Kinzinger tweeted earlier Monday that he raised concerns with McCarthy that the falsehoods of former President Donald Trump and Republicans about the election being stolen would lead to violence, but McCarthy dismissed his concerns.
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the allegations.
Kinzinger doubled down on his criticism of McCarthy later Monday during the National Press Club interview saying his concerns to the GOP leader were met with a “cricket sound.”
The six-term congressman also accused the GOP leader of kowtowing to Trump’s false election claims in order to win back the majority in 2022.
“I was very disappointed when my party’s leaders, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, in particular, decided that winning the next election and winning the majority was more important than a clear-eyed recognition of what happened on Jan. 6,” Kinzinger said. “What happened on Jan. 6 was that a lie led to violence.”
Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Elise Stefanik
Both McCarthy and Scalise are backing the ouster of Cheney from the No. 3 leadership post and supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to take her spot. Stefanik has been a Trump ally and has the former president’s endorsement.
Cheney has repeatedly called out Trump’s false claims that the presidential election was stolen and declared she wouldn’t support Trump in 2024.
“What she is being removed for is making [other Republicans] uncomfortable with being consistent and God bless her for having the consistency to tell the truth,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger said Cheney and McCarthy had the same initial response to the Jan. 6 attack of placing blame on Trump, but the only difference is that McCarthy soon went down to Florida and welcomed Trump back into the party.
“[McCarthy] basically made the decision when he went to Mar-a-Lago that he was not going to be a leader of the Republican Party. … He handed those reins over to Trump and revived him.”
Kinzinger added: “I don’t consider him to be speaking on behalf of the Republican Party anymore because he gave his voting card … to Donald Trump.”
Kinzinger said he was considering forcing a vote of no confidence against McCarthy for his response to Trump and the Jan. 6 riot, but instead, the Trump loyalists went on offense against Cheney that he admitted was a “brilliant strategic play” that will likely cost Wyoming’s sole representative her No. 3 spot in the House on Wednesday.
Both Kinzinger and Cheney voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and both have continued to say the GOP needs to call out Trump’s false comments about the election being stolen from him. But GOP leadership has tried to move on from the Jan. 6 attack and made the decision to saddle up to Trump, believing it’s the best way to win back Congress in 2022.
FILE – Rep. Adam Kinzinger in 2019. Kinzinger said Rep. Liz Cheney is ousted from House leadership for calling out Trump’s lies. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kinzinger said the party must now choose between promoting lies and conspiracy theories or telling the truth that Trump legitimately lost the 2020 election.
“We can’t wash over what happened on Jan. 6 and the election because truth and lies cannot coexist,” Kinzinger said. “They simply can’t coexist. It’s a fight for the soul of the Republican Party.”