Watch CBS News

Transcript: Rep. Adam Kinzinger on "Face the Nation," May 9, 2021

Kinzinger says GOP should "quit peddling in conspiracies"
Kinzinger says GOP should "quit peddling in conspiracies" 06:46

The following is a transcript of an interview with Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger that aired Sunday, May 9, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON: Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger is one of the few Republican members supporting Cheney and joins us from his district in Illinois. Good morning, Congressman. 

REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Good morning. How are you?

JOHN DICKERSON: Before we get to the Republican Party, I want to ask you about Colonial Pipeline. You are on the Energy and Commerce Committee. What do you know about this attack and how important is it?

REP. KINZINGER: It's really important in terms of, you know, understanding the role that cyber is playing in the future, things like critical infrastructure, energy. I don't know much more than what you all know. Maybe I will this week when I get back to D.C. But this needs to redouble our efforts as a country to- to get past our internal divisions as the end all be all of everything and- and focus on things like critical infrastructure in the future, because this is only going to continue to happen more often if we're not careful.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of internal divisions, the Republican Party in the House. It looks like Liz Cheney, the number three in House leadership on the Republican side, is no longer going to hold that position. What is this debate about?

REP. KINZINGER: Yeah, look, it's incredible. So Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She's just consistently been saying it. And a few weeks later, Kevin McCarthy changed to attacking other people. And so I think what the reality is, is as a party, we have to have an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to January 6th. I mean, right now, it's basically the- the Titanic. We're like, you know, in this in the middle of this slow sink, we have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine. And meanwhile, as I've said, you know, Donald Trump's running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat. And I think there's a few of us that are just saying, guys, this is not good, not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country. We're four months after January 6th, an insurrection, something that was unthinkable in this country. And the message from the people that want to get rid of Liz Cheney is to say it's just time to focus on the future and move on, like this was 10 years ago and we've been obsessed about it since. It's been four months. And we have so many people, including our leadership in the party, that has not admitted that this is what it is,--


REP. KINZINGER: --which was an insurrection led by the president of the United States, well deserving of a full accounting from Republicans.

JOHN DICKERSON: But if you are a leader of a party and 70% of the members of your party think the last election was stolen, though, they're wrong about that, you are a leader of that party. You can't change the party. You're the leader. So why shouldn't a person be a leader of a party that is fundamentally at odds with what Liz Cheney believes?

REP. KINZINGER: Because truth matters. Right now- and we have to look and understand why, yes, 70% of the base believes that the election was stolen because they've been told it was. They've been told by the president of the United States. They've been told in many cases by Republican leaders or at least Republican leaders in the least have not countered it on something so vastly crazy as the election is stolen. You know, and- and this is why you have this real battle right now in the party, this idea of let's just put our differences aside and be unified. You cannot unify truth with lies. The lie is that the election was stolen. The truth is Joe Biden beat Donald Trump. And I'm sorry that 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. They weren't disenfranchised. They were simply outnumbered and as a party let's focus on now, how do we go out and win more people. And that's why actually I started the 'Country 1st' movement, at is just to say, tell people the truth and quit peddling and conspiracies, because that's what we've seen in this party. And they're going to get rid of Liz Cheney because they'd much rather pretend that the conspiracy is either real or not confront it than to actually confront it and maybe have to take the temporary licks to save this party and in the long term this country.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of outnumbered though, you and Liz Cheney and maybe Mitt Romney in the Senate are outnumbered by the current Republican Party. It is Donald Trump's Republican Party. The numbers are on their side. So why stay in it?

REP. KINZINGER: Well, look, it's- it's I was a Republican far longer than Donald Trump, and I'm only 43 years old. He became a Republican just a few years ago and- and tried to change the whole definition of conservatism. So I think it's worth a fight. But, you know, the reality is over time, we're going to see who- who wins this battle and- and then there'll be a lot of decisions to make everywhere as we see parties realign and change. For me, I'm a conservative. I'm going to fight for the soul of this party. And- but every member, not just- not just, you know, leadership, every congressman, every state representative, every member of the party that pulls about in the primary has to decide, are- are we going to exist on lies or are we going to insist on truth? And to everybody that grew up in Sunday school like me, that thinks somehow accepting a lie is OK because maybe we can win the bigger battles. I got to tell you the- you know, the Christ I follow, the Jesus I know never says anything about it's OK to lie to the people as long as the end state is the same. Truth matters. And that's what this party has to come to grips with no matter the cost.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think Donald Trump's power in the Republican Party comes from his ability to grow the electorate, reach out to new voters, or because members are scared of crossing him?

REP. KINZINGER: I think it's the latter. I think at the beginning, look, he was able to reach to a sector that we should naturally win, people that are struggling to make ends meet. We also lost a lot of people in that process. But Donald Trump was done after January 6th when Kevin McCarthy said, you know, this is Donald Trump's fault. Make no mistake, he was done. He was sulking away to Mar-a-Lago, didn't even go to the inauguration. And two weeks later, when you look at the financial side of it and you look at the fact there's an election in two years and we want the majority, Kevin McCarthy went and so did Steve Scalise, and they put the paddles on Donald Trump and resurrected him in the party. And everybody after that became scared to death of who Donald Trump was again. And that's what empowered him. And everybody went quiet. That's why the 'Country 1st' movement I started,, is trying to push back because we have to fight for the soul of this party and country.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Adam Kinzinger, the fight continues. Thank you so much for being with us. And we'll be right back.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.