U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger delivered an emotion-laden speech as a House select committee opened its investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection Tuesday, praising law enforcement’s defense of the U.S. Capitol and criticizing fellow Republicans who tried to block the probe and cast it as a partisan attack.
After four members of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the Capitol Police testified about battling insurrectionists that day, Kinzinger choked back tears and said, “You guys may individually feel a little broken. You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with and, you know, you talk about the impact of that day. But you guys won. You guys held.
“Democracies are not defined by our bad days,” Kinzinger added. “We’re defined by 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: Let’s define the truth. And, it’s to ensure accountability.”
Kinzinger wasn’t alone. Adam Schiff managed to produce a few tears, as well.
Kinzinger, of Channahon, is one of two Republican members on the select panel chosen by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. An outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump and his followers in the GOP, he was selected after Pelosi vetoed two of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s choices for the committee, prompting McCarthy to withdraw all five of his selections.
Pelosi created the committee after Senate Republicans and most House GOP members opposed the formation of an independent outside commission to look into the deadly insurrection, which was aimed at blocking the Electoral College vote count that certified Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
Kinzinger said he was “frustrated” that several months have passed since a violent mob infiltrated the Capitol and so many questions remain unanswered.
“We still don’t know exactly what happened. Why? Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight,” he said. “It’s toxic and it’s a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees of the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth.”
Kinzinger has attacked Trump for continuing to falsely promote the belief that the November 2020 election was stolen, while also criticizing McCarthy and other House Republicans for promoting Trump as the GOP’s leader.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, like Kinzinger one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in promoting the insurrection, is the other GOP member of the select panel.
McCarthy has called them “Pelosi Republicans,” and the House Republican caucus is considering moves to strip them of their committee assignments. Cheney was already removed from the House GOP leadership team.
“I think that reflects more on people than it does on the situation at hand,” Kinzinger said of McCarthy’s threatened moves against him and Cheney.
“This is a historic moment and this is a democracy-defining moment, and no matter the consequences, me, and I know, Liz, will stand and defend democracy,” Kinzinger said.
During the hearing, Kinzinger said he wanted the public to trust the committee’s work despite the Republican leadership criticism, and said it was important to “get the facts out there, free of conspiracy.”
“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,” Kinzinger said.
“I’m here to investigate Jan. 6 not in spite of my membership in the Republican Party, but because of it. Not to win a political fight but to learn the facts and defend our democracy,” he said.
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The four officers who testified, Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, were praised as heroes by Kinzinger and other panel members.
“We are only here now because you guys were here,” Kinzinger said, adding that it was fitting for the panel to begin its work “with these four men who made sure that the attack did not succeed, with those who helped to ensure that democracy held.”
Noting that critics of the committee’s work contend it’s time to move on from Jan. 6, Kinzinger asked the officers if the insurrection feels like “old history.” Each responded “No,” with Hodges adding, “There can be no moving on without accountability. There can be no healing until we make sure this can’t happen again.”
In his earlier testimony, Dunn, who is Black, recalled not only the violence he witnessed that day but also being verbally assaulted with racial slurs. He recounted an encounter with Illinois Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in the Capitol rotunda after the building had been cleared.
“Rep. Rodney Davis was there offering support to officers. And when he and I saw each other, he came over and he gave me a big hug,” Dunn said.
Davis, of Taylorville, had been one of McCarthy’s five choices to be on the panel that the House Republican leader later yanked. Davis, who has been pondering a potential bid for the GOP governor nomination, then labeled the select committee a partisan “sham.”
While the select committee was meeting, Davis joined McCarthy and members of the House GOP leadership to denounce the panel’s work and attempt to blame Pelosi for failing to enact changes in the structure of the Capitol Police that they contend would have better dealt with countering the insurrection.
“It’s with great disappointment today that I don’t get to question my friend Harry Dunn,” Davis said. “Harry is a friend. Harry and I hugged each other when we saw each other in the Capitol after what happened on Jan. 6. Harry’s been to my office to talk about these issues. He knows that all of us here want to address the institutional problems with the structure that is set up to fail.”
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