The following is a transcript of an interview with Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger that aired Sunday, February 28, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger broke with his party and voted to impeach President Trump back in January, and he joins us this morning from Capitol Hill. Good morning to you, Congressman.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Good morning. Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So we just- we’re spending a lot of time talking about your party today, which I know you’re spending a lot of time thinking about the future. When the former president takes the stage at- at CPAC, he is expected to say, according to excerpts of the speech that’s been released, that the Republican Party is united. Is the Republican Party united?
REP. KINZINGER: No, I think there’s- I mean, we may be united in some areas. You know, we don’t have to agree with everything the Biden administration is doing. So there will be opposition. So unity in some of that. But I think in terms of what is our vision for the future, certainly not united. I think we are a party that’s been for too long pedaling in fear, using fear as a compelling way to get votes. And fear does motivate. But after a while, fear can destroy a country, can destroy narratives, and it can destroy a democracy. And we have to quit peddling that. And I think what you’re going to hear from the president at CPAC today is self-congratulations. Not- no ability to recognize the fact that we have lost the House, the Senate and the presidency because of Donald Trump. And you’re going to see a lot of fear.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the chairwoman of your party, though, say that she met with the former president to- with the intention of having him help win back the House and the Senate. So she’s believing that he’s a force to bring people to the Republican Party.
REP. KINZINGER: Well, I think he is. I mean, I think certainly he’s got, you know, a number of people that follow him and are motivated by him and compelled by him because there’s been no competing alternative vision. You know, to win a narrative in a party, you have to present a competing alternative narrative. When you only hear from Donald Trump and when people walk around in fear of his tweets or his comments or they use his fear to peddle- win reelection, of course, he’s going to motivate people. But that’s where, when I launched Country1st.com with a “1st,” that’s all about fighting for the narrative in the Republican Party for an optimistic, brighter future again, one we can be proud of, and one, where when we talk about things, we actually teach young people how to do politics in a way that we used to remember and appreciate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking there about the political action committee that you have founded. So that’s part of what I was talking about earlier with- with some infighting. I mean how are you going to pick candidates? Is there anyone you see, for instance, in the Senate right now? We know- we know Leader- Minority Leader McConnell said there are at least four senators he has that are going to run for president. Any of them have the kind of vision you’re calling for?
REP. KINZINGER: Not that I’ve seen. I don’t know who these senators are that are going to run. There are a few that I really do appreciate in the Senate. You think of like Ben Sasse, of course, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, those that voted to remove the president, particularly because I think they did it at great personal cost. That shows leadership. There are people in the House, of course, Liz Cheney, you know, with her strength and ability to stand up in front of a tough crowd and tell the truth. That’s what America needs more of. They need more of truth-telling. They need more of- out of fear and- and presenting light into darkness. And we have to start with our own party. We can point fingers at the Democrats, sure. But it’s not going to do any good. Every party, but now, especially the Republican Party, has to look inside after January 6th and say, what have we become? What’s our great history and how do we go forward from here? And I’ll tell you, reaching out to Donald Trump and more of the same is not going to do that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You spend some time thinking about foreign policy, so I want to ask you as well, are you disappointed that just like President Trump, President Biden did not take direct action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in approving the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?
REP. KINZINGER: So I don’t want to say I’m disappointed he didn’t take direct action. I think, you know, he needs to be held accountable. I think publicly talking about this is very important because the- the Saudi Crown Prince responds to public shaming. And I think there has to be some behind- the-scenes accountability. But keep in mind, once we start basically pushing and picking sides and all this, it’s a very complicated area. We have to show deep moral clarity, but be very careful in how we go forward because especially in the Middle East, things are really complicated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: They are. But, you know, this is a person who was a US resident. Should you expect more from a US president in forcing consequences for murder and dismemberment?
REP. KINZINGER: Yeah, and look, I don’t think that this chapter’s done. I think, you know, public accountability is important. And I think there will be some things that we might find out later. It’s not going to be like military action or anything, but other areas, whether it’s economics or targeted sanctions, stuff like that, that will come out either publicly or behind the scenes in the future. I don’t think this chapter is written yet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, like the halt on- that’s being considered on offensive weapon sales. You would support that?
REP. KINZINGER: Yeah, I think I’d have to look at all the details of it, but I think certainly there has to be accountability for this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Alright, Congressman Kinzinger, thank you for your time today.
REP. KINZINGER: You bet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.