House Republican reveals that he tried to warn Kevin McCarthy before Jan. 6 riot

Rep. Adam Kinzinger says that his concerns ahead of the Capitol riot were dismissed

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published May 11, 2021 11:08AM (EDT)

Kevin McCarthy and Adam Kinzinger (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Kevin McCarthy and Adam Kinzinger (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Anti-Trump GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., alleged on Monday that he warned House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., one of Trump's biggest boosters, that the GOP's rhetoric was inviting violence in advance of the Capitol riot, but McCarthy dismissed his concerns. 

"A few days before Jan 6, our GOP members had a conference call," Kinzinger tweeted. "I told Kevin that his words and our party's actions would lead to violence on January 6th. Kevin dismissively responded with 'ok Adam, operator next question.' And we got violence."

In a National Press Club interview, Kinzinger also admitted that he considered organizing a vote of no confidence against McCarthy following the insurrection. "I actually thought the person that should have their leadership challenged was Kevin McCarthy after Jan. 6, because that's why this all happened," he revealed. "I was considering, you know, having a vote of no confidence against Kevin, and our feeling was no, let's move on. We're gonna vote to impeach the president; we need to move on," he said. Kinzinger's plan ultimately failed to garner enough support from his colleagues. 

The Illinois representative was among the ten House Republicans to support former President Trump's second impeachment for inciting the Capitol riot. Just who is to blame for the riot has become a defining flash point for the Republican Party, which has demonstrated a tendency to ostracize any member who attributes the riot to Trump. 

Kinzinger also expressed regret over not pushing McCarthy's ouster hard enough.

 "I didn't go too far and wide with it yet, and I chatted with kind of a close group of mine," he admitted. "And the feeling in that close group — I won't reveal who it is — but the feeling that group was kind of, you know, we're taking a big step, the president is going to be XYZ, and now it's time that we have to heal as a party. I was like, 'Well, I'm not going to do it alone. I still believe that Kevin should at least have his leadership challenged.'"

The congressman noted that the GOP began vying to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a recent Republican critic of Trump, from her position as House Republican Conference chair shortly after Trump was acquitted of his second impeachment charges.

"And then everybody went on the offense against Liz," he recounted. "And that's what was a brilliant strategic play, because then all of a sudden, you know, Liz is the one playing defense, for what? What was she playing defense for, for telling the truth and not ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6? "If you think about it from the forest, it's ludicrous that she's having to defend herself. Like, that's insane. But that's where we are."

On Sunday, Kinzinger likened the Republican Party to the Titanic amid the internal GOP push to strip Cheney of her leadership role.

"We're like, you know, in the middle of this slow sink," he said in a CBS interview. "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."

The representative on Sunday also bashed McCarthy for quickly changing his tune on who was to blame for the Capitol riot. Just a week after the insurrection, McCarthy initially laid the blame at Trump's feet.

"Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She's just consistently been saying it," Kinzinger argued. "We have so many people including our leadership in the party that have not admitted that this is what it is, which was an insurrection led by the president of the United States, well-deserving of a full accounting from Republicans."

On Sunday, McCarthy publicly threw his support behind Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a young, budding Republican, to replace Cheney as the House Republican Conference chair. Stefanik, who Salon's Heather Digby Parton noted is something of a "political shapeshifter," was once a Republican moderate, but has since distinguished herself as one of Trump's most pugnacious defenders.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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Adam Kinzinger Brief Capitol Riot Gop Gop Civil War January 6 Kevin Mccarthy Republicans Trump