WASHINGTON — Congressman Adam Kinzinger was in his Capitol office early Wednesday afternoon when its security force was no longer able to keep a group of protesters out of its hallowed chambers.
“I’m going to be keeping a low profile” for the next few days, Kinzinger told the Daily Journal in a mid-morning interview Thursday. “Wednesday was just unprecedented. I hate saying this, but I totally saw this coming.”
Kinzinger initially labeled the Capitol attack a “coup attempt.”
While the culprits for the events which unfolded as Congress was in the early stages of certifying the Electoral College votes will be debated for years to come and theories will emerge as to why it happened, the fact that it happened at all left the 16th Illinois Congressional District U.S. Representative searching for reason.
Kinzinger discounted an early theory that the event was sparked by the planting of a political protest movement, Antifa or anarchists.
He acknowledged people from groups like that may have participated, but he believes it was protesters loyal to Trump. A massive group of Trump supporters had convened in Washington, D.C., Tuesday and Wednesday as electoral votes were being tallied.
The legislator said if people are convinced the election was stolen, then it is not irrational to do what happened on Wednesday.
“Then it gets into mob action. ... But these were Trump supporters that were in the middle of the Capitol. It’s time to be honest with people as to where we are as a country,” he said.
Initially in the House chamber when the hearing began, Kinzinger said he went to his office. He was quickly informed of what was transpiring and could not believe what was happening when the building was cleared for safety concerns of the House Representatives and Senators.
“There was a period there for about 30 minutes when I was genuinely concerned” for members’ safety, he said. “The police were overwhelmed. It was surreal. It was creepy.”
Both the Senate and the House sergeant-at-arms resigned Thursday regarding the breach of security. Late this week, Kinzinger called for the removal of Trump as president.
He was the first GOP Congressional member to seek removal of the president. His call for Trump’s removal was backed by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.
Pritzker said, “Two weeks is too long for Donald Trump to remain in office, where he can continue to incite more untold violence.”
Kinzinger said there are definitely questions which need to be asked and answered as to how security failed.
“They were outmanned and outnumbered,” he said. “But I don’t know why [security] weren’t aware of this. We pay a lot of money to keep the ‘people’s house’ safe.”
The Republican Party’s role in the “people’s house” is something of great concern for Kinzinger. A U.S. Representative since 2010, first elected to represent the 11th Congressional District when he was based in Manteno and defeated then U.S. Rep Debbie Halvorson, he switched to the 16th District after redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census.
Kinzinger said the Republican Party certainly has its work cut out for itself. He said the party, which is now the minority in both the House and Senate and failed to hold onto the White House, must come to terms with how it moves forward.
“I hope this is the moment to wake us up from a Friday night bender. This has been damaging to the party. We are going to have to fight for what it is we stand for,’’ he said. He plans to fight for the restoration of the party’s conservative values,” he said.
Regarding President Trump and a possible run for the presidency in 2024, Kinzinger didn’t see that happening before Wednesday’s events, he believes those actions make a return even less likely.
Regarding a rumored run for the Illinois governor’s office, he said that’s not on his mind.
“The mission to achieve right now is to protect this country,” he said.
But, he didn’t totally discard posing a challenge to Gov. JB Pritzker either.
“I am not plotting to do that, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said.
“The preservation of our democracy is so important. I’m still shook up. ... We have all taken so much for granted for so long.”
Capital News Illinois contributed to this story.