Kinzinger backs Trump, but with caveats
Republican congressman pooh-poohs being left out as 2020 state campaign co-chairman
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — A Republican Illinois congressman isn’t backing down from criticizing President Trump, but he also isn’t abandoning support for him, either.
“I’ve made it clear there are things I don’t like that he’s saying,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon before attending a congressional subcommittee hearing in Chicago on Thursday.
Over the weekend, Kinzinger took issue with Trump’s retweet of a post threatening that, if the president were removed from office by impeachment, “it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which our country will never heal.”
Kinzinger, an Air Force pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who is still an officer in the National Guard, tweeted back that he’d visited nations “ravaged by civil war” and calling Trump’s retweet “beyond repugnant.”
He clarified Thursday that should not be interpreted as withdrawing his support for the president, “but if there’s something like the thing that said ‘civil war’ that I don’t agree with, I’m going to say that.”
He also said it should not be read as support for the ongoing impeachment inquiry. “Because that’s a big deal,” Kinzinger added. “It’s a huge jump, and there’s a lot that we don’t know.
“Now, they can investigate the questions we have, but to jump to an impeachment inquiry…”
Kinzinger suggested that U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Moline had shied from fully endorsing an impeachment inquiry in a recent appearance on CNN, and he said the impeachment process could leave the Democratic legislative agenda “derailed.”
That rankled U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston, who also attended the hearing, and who pointed to how House Democrats have already passed legislation that’s still waiting just to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate, including a bill for comprehensive background checks on gun purchases and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Schakowsky is among those who’ve called the Senate a “legislative graveyard” under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and she added, “We’re moving ahead on prescription drugs — a lot of issues that people care about, quite frankly, even more than impeachment, because it affects their daily lives.”
She said the U.S. House is fully capable of processing the people’s business while also weighing the evidence presented in the impeachment inquiry, and she bristled at Republican suggestions that the probe could bring Congress to a standstill.
“If Republicans are saying that, in a way it’s a threat,” Schakowsky said. “They have to wake up to the other needs, including gun violence and including prescription-drug prices.
“If Republicans are saying we can’t do anything other than this,” she added, meaning impeachment alone, “it’s another betrayal of ordinary Americans.”
After Kinzinger’s “beyond repugnant” tweet, the Trump campaign announced this week that the other four Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation — John Shimkus, Darin LaHood, Mike Bost, and Rodney Davis — would serve as his state 2020 campaign co-chairmen, but not Kinzinger. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet reported Thursday that was intended as a deliberate “rebuke” to Kinzinger.
Kinzinger dismissed that, blaming it on Trump’s “political operatives,” and saying he still planned on campaigning for the president next year.
Asked about Trump’s combative, acerbic, erratic behavior at a pair of news conferences with the visiting president of Finland on Wednesday, however, Kinzinger said simply, “I would not have acted like that.”