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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Member of House January 6th Committee, Interviewed on Testimony from Former Aides to Former Vice President Mike Pence and Testimony on President Trump's Behavior During January 6th Insurrection. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2022 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" report a second top former Pence aide, Greg Jacob, was also subpoenaed and appeared before the grand jury.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, new images released by the January 6th Committee show Trump edited a speech considerably that was supposed to strongly condemn the Capitol rioters. Trump was reluctant to give that speech. He crossed out several lines and phrases. A line that said "those who broke the law belong in jail" replaced instead, handwritten there with "will pay." Ivanka Trump was asked about it by the committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see throughout the document there are lines crossed out, there are some -- there are some words added in. Do you recognize the handwriting?

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: It looks like my father's handwriting.


KEILAR: Joining us now is one of the two Republicans on the January 6th Committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning. And I do want to start with this news that we have heard about Marc Short, that he's testified in the DOJ's probe. What does that signal to you about where the investigation stands?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R-IL) JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: Well, I mean, I look at it and it says obviously there is some interest. There was a lot of frustration, just kind of personally, for the last, I guess, year-and-a-half, like what's DOJ doing? I think our investigation, though it is not a criminal investigation, certainly has brought some things to light that DOJ is watching. And it seems like between that and some of the search warrants that have been served and some of the other things we have seen, that they are moving forward.

Look, I think it is important for the Department of Justice to get a handle on what the criminality of what happened is, and if there are crimes, to prosecute them, because we cannot live in a country where we send a message that a president is above the law as long as he fails at a coup attempt, but by the way, if he ever succeeds at a coup attempt, then there is probably no law anyway. This is important for us as a country to put out that standard.

KEILAR: Has the committee provided DOJ with transcripts of its interviews with Marc Short and also with Greg Jacob, the legal counsel, former legal counsel to the former V.P.?

KINZINGER: I won't get into kind of the behind the scenes what we are, what we aren't sharing, what DOJ has asked for. As we've mentioned, we are cooperating with the Department of Justice in certain areas. There's a lot coming into consideration. We have a -- I would say a decent working relationship with them. But obviously we have two different interests. Ours is to get to the bottom of what happened, put out recommendations. The Department of Justice is to look at any possible criminality.

I just have to ask, what have they been doing for the last year-and-a- half. That said, if they are moving forward on looking at this stuff, I think that's very positive for the country, even if in the short term it may be hard.

KEILAR: When you think of Short's testimony with the committee, what part do you think would be most relevant to DOJ?

KINZINGER: I think there's just a lot of, what did he know, what was the vice president's mindset, what did he see within the White House. In terms of what the DOJ is specifically looking at, I don't know, because, again, I don't know if there is specifically this electors issue, is it specifically what is the president's role. I don't know. That's not something I, frankly, need to know with what the DOJ is doing.

But I can tell you, you know, Marc Short, he's a good man. He certainly knows a lot of what happened, and I think under oath you can be pretty much committed that he'll tell the truth.

KEILAR: Ginni Thomas was pressuring a number of officials to overturn election results. She was in touch with many major players. Liz Cheney says the committee's contemplating subpoenaing her. When will the committee move beyond thinking about it?

KINZINGER: So that's a discussion right now between Ginni Thomas' lawyers, our lawyers. We have been doing this now as a committee for about a year. Our lawyers are very good at knowing when we have gone from legitimate negotiations, which occur between somebody who wants to come in and testify, or who should come and testify, and a committee. They know when it goes from that legitimate negotiation to stall tactics. And that's usually when they kind of give us a signal, this is going nowhere, they're trying to buy time, and we may move to a subpoena.

I think it is important, look, we're not interested in talking to Ginni Thomas because of her last name. We're interested because what started out as maybe a few conversations with some people seems to have grown. This has been publicly reported. And so we want to hear from her. And she said, I think, on -- I forget what kind of public news outlet, that she is very excited in essence to come in and talk to the committee. So, yes, we're eager to talk to her and just find out what she knows.

KEILAR: Do you think her lawyers are stalling?

KINZINGER: I don't know. I'm not in on those negotiations. We look at it and say, OK, the lawyers that know the lawyerly stuff that I don't, for instance, they are the better experts at that.


But look, we're interested in finding out what she knows. If we have to go to subpoena, we will. But clearly, we'd much rather just talk to her voluntarily.

KEILAR: Would you have subpoenaed her already if she wasn't married to Clarence Thomas?

KINZINGER: No. Like I said, I don't think she's getting special treatment one way or the other. We treat her like we would anybody else. I think it's probably the media and public that have more of an interest in her based on the last name. But we look and say, as information has developed and we see who she has talked to, that's when we make the decision, OK, it is good to come in and chat with us.

KEILAR: So Marc Short says he didn't see any of Pence's Secret Service agents in fear of their lives on January 6th. He said the more likely scenario was that if the rioters had gotten closer to the vice president, the Secret Service would have opened fire on them, meaning he's saying it would have been more likely the rioters were killed than the Secret Service was. Why should people then believe that anonymous White House security official, or security official who is familiar with the White House complex, whose testimony we heard last week over Short who was actually there?

KINZINGER: I mean, look, we -- that official said it under oath. Short can have a different perception of what happened. Let me ask you a question. Here is something clear. If his reasoning for saying that is because Secret Service agents can open fire and kill people coming after the vice president --

KEILAR: I think he said he didn't witness it. That's not what he witnessed. And he was there with them.

KINZINGER: That's fine. That's fine. There's multiple roles of Secret Service. The point is we heard the radio traffic, they were very concerned. Very rarely do you hear Secret Service in a heightened state, saying, hey, we're about to have our exit cut off. And I want to put yourself in the mindset of Secret Service, the vice president, or anybody with him. They were 40 feet, which is like 10 football yards, maybe slightly more, 13 football yards, from being completely cut off of any exit to the Capitol. There is no secret trap door in the Capitol that the vice president can go through and end up in some protected location. They were stuck. I would be in a pretty freaked out mode if I was protecting the vice president because you know at that point, if the rioters, of which there are thousands, come upon him, they are not going to treat him gingerly. They had gallows erected outside.

KEILAR: Did the inspector general of DHS inform the January 6th Committee that the inquiry into the missing texts from Secret Service is now a criminal probe? Is that going to impact the information you may get?

KINZINGER: I don't want to get -- I don't know what I want to get into too much with what we've talked about with the inspector general. Here's what we know as a committee. Obviously, there are missing text messages. It's one of two things, either complete failure and incompetence of management to lose text messages, particularly when there are rules governing that, or there is a reason they have disappeared. That's what we want to know.

Uniquely, on probably the second most important day of the Secret Service and the 21st century, why those text messages, I'm not going out on a limb and saying nefarious activity, but I'm saying suspicious enough we need to know. The I.G. has their investigate. We have our investigation. We can get information from each other to the extent that it's feasible. But we all have different interests. Ours is to get the answers for what happened on January 6th.

KEILAR: Has the committee shared information? Has the committee been in contact with the Fulton County D.A. in Georgia?

KINZINGER: Again, I won't get into what has been happening kind of behind the scenes on that. I'll leave that to those that have had the discussion, particularly to any Fulton County D.A., what they want to share or not share. But I'm not going to reveal any of that.

KEILAR: Other than the tweet that Trump put out urging supporters to come to Washington, sort of a siren call, and I think that it's reasonable to look at it that way, but other than that, is there any direct link from the Trump White House to the extremist groups in the leadup to January 6th?

KINZINGER: Look, in terms of any direct links, we're going to put out more information. We'll have more hearings. My issue is this, and this is what we were talking about in the Thursday night hearing -- the president tried every effort to overturn the election in the leadup to January 6th. On January 6th, the president did far more than just fail to act. He chose to stand by, for the first time in his life, actually resist peer pressure, to see where this, like, attack on the Capitol would go, because maybe it would succeed. And only when it didn't did he step out.

So he had that tweet, obviously, come there, it's going to be wild, all this stuff about the election leading up to it, stirring people up. And then in the middle of knowing that his vice president was in the middle of here, that the Capitol was occupied, he sat there angry and said, Vice President Mike Pence betrayed us, knowing dang well that he was in danger. And then at the end of the day, I think it was his last tweet ever,

mercifully, he said these are the things and events that happened when an election is stolen from people like you. Remember this day forever.


He's making the day a martyr, he is making his cause a martyr, and it is absolutely chilling. It's the things you see in places like Libya and countries that have dictatorships or had dictatorships.

KEILAR: Is that the direct link to you?

KINZINGER: No. Look, I'm just saying from my perspective, the president knew exactly what he was doing. In terms of specifics with extremist groups, we put out some information, there is more to come. I'm talking about the president's role on January 6th, that's what matters to me.

KEILAR: OK, so there is more to come. You have hearings coming up, and would you look -- so more to come. I mean, when you have these hearings still ahead of you, would you think of this more as tying up loose ends or are we going to see some bombshells?

KINZINGER: Well, let me give you an example. So you saw the video that came out yesterday about the speech, the drafting of the speech. We could have had a hearing on Thursday that was five hours long with the information we had. Obviously, you guys wouldn't cover a five-hour hearing. Maybe you guys would. Most people wouldn't cover a five-hour hearing. And so there's a lot of information we couldn't get out. That will come out. That will come out particularly in the report, it may come out in future hearings. And we're also getting more witnesses.

So as we're also kind of presenting this to the American people, we're not tying up loose ends. We're getting more information, and we're going to be in a position where people have no doubt what happened. That's all our job is, is to say here's what happened, here's recommendations. In terms of the justice side of things, you have to ask Merrick Garland on that one.

KEILAR: Yes. We might cover that five-hour hearing, too. So give us a head's up on that.


KINZINGER: You bet. Will do.

KEILAR: Steve Bannon, guilty now of contempt. Do you think DOJ should have charged Meadows and Dan Scavino as well?

KINZINGER: Yes, yes. Look, the only question is did you ignore -- did you get a subpoena from Congress? Were they able to serve that to you? And did you show up? Any one of those people can show up to Congress and assert their Fifth Amendment right. They can show up and claim executive privilege to Congress. They didn't even bother. So, yes, I think the Department of Justice should. I think they're worried about this area of executive privilege. But, again, Mark Meadows can come in and claim it, as for instance the White House Counsel did, Mr. Cipollone in certain areas. Come in and claim it, claim the Fifth if you think you're guilty, but you don't have a right to just ignore it, like you couldn't with the court that subpoenaed you.

KEILAR: Your Republican colleague over in the Senate, senator Tom Cotton, went on --


KEILAR: -- a radio show, he criticized the last hearing, but then admitted this. Let's listen.


SEN. TOM COTTON, (R-AR): I'll confess, though. I did not. I will confess that I did not watch that hearing. And I have not watched any of the hearings. So I've not seen any of them out of the context I see a snippet here or there on the news.


KEILAR: Your response to him?

KINZINGER: Yes, let me tell you how he's thinking. He thinks it is cool to be in front of the base and be, like, I'm not even watching the hearing, guys. I'm too cool to watch the hearings, but I already have my mind made up. Frankly, that probably works in the base. Tom Cotton has built a reputation on acting like the toughest guy on the planet, but he can't even put in front of his eyes a narrative which may challenge his soul, that he would have to go tell his people the truth.

Republicans that are watching, let me tell you this, every one of your leaders that refuse to tell you that the election wasn't stolen, Joe Biden is a legitimate president, and that Trump is a poison to our country, anyone that refuses to tell you, that doesn't believe it, which is 99 percent of them, they are abusing you, they are lying to you. And you should throw them out with anger because you need leaders that tell you the truth.

Be ticked at me. Be ticked at Liz Cheney all you want. Fine. We can take it. We're telling you the truth. The people that are lying to you, they may pat you on the head and make you feel good, but they're abusing you, stealing your money all to stay in power. I have no sympathy for people like Tom Cotton or anybody else, like Kevin McCarthy, that lies to the base voter.

KEILAR: Those base voters that you're talking about, they're not changing their minds, looking at the hearings. In fact, our Donie O'Sullivan went to the dueling Trump-Pence rallies in Arizona, and this is what some told him about the hearings. Let's listen.



O'SULLIVAN: What do you think?

SCHOENBERNER: I think they're a bunch of bullshit.


SCHOENBERNER: Well, because you have both sides, or are you getting one side of the story?

O'SULLIVAN: You mean, like the side that attacked the Capitol?

SCHOENBERNER: You really believe that happened?

O'SULLIVAN: I was there.

SCHOENBERNER: OK. I have a lot of people that were there, too.


SCHOENBERNER: And saw things that it wasn't what they say it was.

O'SULLIVAN: Have guys you been watching the January 6th hearings at all?




RANDY BARRETT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, we saw it when it all went down, and then we saw a lot of the BLM and Antifa people in the building as well. And it is just -- it is just nonsense.

O'SULLIVAN: But I think like 800 people now have been charged, right?


O'SULLIVAN: None of them are Black Lives Matter or Antifa.

BARRETT Yes, that doesn't mean anything. That doesn't mean anything.


TAMMY BARRETT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: They're not charging them. Correct. They have not been brought into court for their due process because they have not been arrested.

R. BARRETT: Hunter Biden hasn't been arrested.


KEILAR: I mean, your face says it all. These aren't outliers in the Trump base. What's your thought as you're listening to that? KINZINGER: I mean, facts are hard to digest, right? This is a very

one-sided hearing process. It's very one-sided. I'll give them that.

It only has been Republicans, only -- mainly Republicans appointed by Donald Trump that have testified. We haven't had a Democratic witness, maybe one or two. I don't know what their personal political affiliation. But it is only Republicans coming in and testifying.

They are being lied to and manipulated. They are told that somehow Nancy Pelosi or Muriel Bowser controls the National Guard. The only person with control of the D.C. National Guard, by the way, is the president of the United States. The only person that can deploy the D.C. National Guard.

But they are lied to. They are -- I mean, I could go on for an hour about this.

I will tell you, though, I firmly believe in five or ten years, you will not find a single person in this country that will admit to ever having supported Donald Trump.

He's becoming a cancer. Trumpism is a cancer. And there will be people like Nixon that never admit they supported him in five or ten years.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you about something we're seeing which is Democratic groups who are actually helping push election deniers in GOP primaries, are hoping for an easier matchup in the general election.

What do you make of that as someone whose committee is exposing them?

KINZINGER: I think it is disgusting, because, look, yeah, you think you may have an easier time at winning. I'm going to tell you, after January, there are going to be a few of these people. Look at Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.

I mean, look at Darren Bailey in Illinois, an election denier. Governor Pritzker spent tens of millions of dollars so that he would win. By the way, yeah, Pritzker has a little bit of an advantage right now. In a good Republican year, Bailey may win.

And you see this in Peter Meijer in Michigan. You're going to have election deniers win.

So, while I think a certain number of Democrats truly understand the democracy is threatened, don't come to me after having spent money supporting an election denier in a primary, and then come to me and say, where are all the good Republicans? You're worried about democracy.

I truly believe that all these issues we argue about, they matter, but the thing that matters the most right now is the threat to our democracy. It's the thing our kids will judge us by. And when we're sitting here playing DCCC, you know, DNC politics, let's promote the crazy and that person wins, you don't understand the real threat. I'm sorry. You don't understand the threat to democracy. KEILAR: Congressman, we do appreciate you being so generous with your

time this morning. Thank you, Congressman Adam Kinzinger.


BERMAN: All right. With us now, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY", Abby Phillip.

Little bit of Adam Kinzinger unplugged there, taking on the DCCC, taking on Tom Cotton, taking on at the very beginning, and I don't want to overlook this, the Justice Department for bringing in Marc Short, basically saying, thanks, but where have you been the last year and a half.

Wow, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, definitely Adam Kinzinger unplugged. Look, starting with the Justice Department.

I actually think this is particularly interesting. This committee has been driving the bus on this investigation and they are clearly frustrated that the Justice Department is kind of playing follow the leader here as opposed to taking on parts of this investigation, much more aggressively. There are elements of this investigation that the Justice Department would be best suited to pursue.

When you asked him about those ties between Trump allies and the extremist groups, it is clear the committee is not quite there yet. He didn't quite have a fulsome understanding of what that might look like, but that seems to be a clear area where the Justice Department, which is already prosecuting manufacture the riot has investigative tools that can look more deeply into that.

And I think that you see the January 6th committee being a little bit frustrated. And then at the end there, on these election deniers, this is a really serious issue for the Democrats, where people in both the Republican Party and on the Democratic side are raising real questions about this strategy of boosting people who in a good year, as Adam Kinzinger said, could very well win.

And let's be honest, this is a good year for Republicans. This is not a good year for Democrats. So they really are playing a little bit of Russian roulette here with some of these candidates, down ballot, who are, you know, many Republicans say are unfit to hold the offices that they're running for.


KEILAR: Abby, what did you think about what he said to Senator Tom Cotton who's criticized the hearings, but admitted he didn't even watch any of the hearings? I mean, Kinzinger basically said everything except he's a fragile snowflake who can't watch the hearings.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and directed at the Tom Cottons of the world, the Josh Hawleys of the world, perhaps the Ted Cruzes of the world, the Republicans who won't watch the hearings, but denounce it as a partisan affair.

Now, it is partisan in a certain sense in that as Congressman Kinzinger pointed out, mostly or predominantly Republicans have been testifying. But it has been notable.

Look, the folks who are pushing back on the hearings so far are not doing so from a perspective of the substance, because they're not watching it, because if you watch it, you have to contend with the factual information. And on top of that, nobody has pushed back on the facts that have been presented about Trump's behavior or lack thereof. There has been some pushback about people's recollections, about what the Secret Service did or did not do, but nobody is denying that Trump did nothing on January 6th to stop the rioters voluntarily.

He was pressured by his aides and his family to put out a statement. He didn't want to put out a statement and so you're not seeing Republicans like Tom Cotton responding to those facts. And so I do think it is justified for everybody to say, well, how can you say that the committee is illegitimate when you don't know what information they have been presenting?

BERMAN: Abby Phillip, great to talk to you this morning. Thanks so much for watching this with us.

I mean, man, the Tom Cotton question was a terrific question by you. Kinzinger was loaded for bear as they like to say as soon as you mentioned Tom Cotton. He was ready to comment on that one.

KEILAR: I think he's very frustrated with Republicans and Democrats for how they're playing politics with this.

BERMAN: Heightened concerns this morning about China's potential for action against Taiwan. We're going to ask the White House how it plans to respond.

KEILAR: And a Republican congressman celebrates his son's same sex wedding days after voting against codifying gay marriage into law.



BERMAN: This morning, "The New York Times" reports that U.S. officials are worried about potential action by China against Taiwan as soon as the next year and a half. According to "The Times", some officials worry that Chinese leaders could try to cut off access to the Taiwan Strait, including for U.S. naval ships that frequently pass through the area.

This comes, of course, as Nancy Pelosi appears to be preparing for a controversial trip to Taiwan.

Joining me now is John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.

Thank you so much for being with us. This article our friend David Sanger is on the byline here says that some U.S. officials fear that Chinese leaders might try to move against Taiwan over the next year and a half.

What's your take on that assessment, John?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments, John. I mean, we have been seeing the Chinese increase their level of aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. We certainly have seen an increase in their bellicose rhetoric with respect to Taiwan, and to other false territorial and maritime claims in the Indo-Pacific.

I would just tell you that, again, nothing has changed about our One China policy and nothing changed about the fact that we're going to continue to fly, sail and operate were international law and international waters permit us to do that.

BERMAN: All right. You say they have increased their activity. General Mark Milley agrees with you. Inside this article, he's quoted as saying the U.S. military is seeing significantly more and noticeably more aggressive Chinese military action. Like what?

KIRBY: I think you'd see it for yourself, and CNN's covered this. I mean, some of the intercepts, (AUDIO GAP) on the air and the sea. They're continuing militarization of manmade islands in the Indo- Pacific region, out there certainly in the South China Sea, in East China Sea.

They have obviously been much more assertive in trying to perpetuate these false territorial claims throughout the region. And, again, it has been matched by the rhetoric. I mean, we have been watching this happen in real time.

Which is why this administration has put so much energy and effort into trying to address the China challenge, not just through freedom of navigation operations and sailing and flying where international law permits, but in shoring up and revitalizing our alliances and partnerships in the region.

Five of our seven treaty alliances, John, are in the Pacific region. Those are important to us and they're important to our allies and partners.

BERMAN: This article suggests that President Xi -- and I don't think this would come as a surprise to anybody -- is watching what has happened in Ukraine. And it quotes Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, Democrat who is close friends with the president, and steeped in foreign policy, who says: One school of thought is that Xi, one of the lessons he's learned is to go early and go strong, before there is time to strengthen Taiwan's defenses.

And Coons went on to say, we may be heading to an earlier confrontation, more of a squeeze than an invasion than we thought.

So, what lessons do you think Taiwan is learning -- excuse me, China is learning from what's happening in Ukraine?

KIRBY: I think it's fair to say that both China and Taiwan are watching what's going on in Ukraine, and trying to derive lessons learned. For instance, about the strength of international community pressure against Russia, the power of sanctions and export controls and the degree to which that is harming the Russian economy and further isolating them, the degree to which the international community has really rallied around Ukraine in providing security assistance, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance. And I mean, I'm sure they're watching this in real time.

But here is the thing, John. There is no reason for the tensions across the strait there to evolve into conflict. No reason at all. Nothing has changed about the American adherence to the One China policy and nothing has changed about our commitment through the Taiwan Relations Act to helping Taiwan better defend itself.

There's been no change in that. And we continue to urge that no unilateral change in that status quo be brought about through certainly through military action. There is no reason for this to devolve into any kind of conflict.

BERMAN: Well, the Chinese seem to be suggesting that if House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan, that would increase the tensions.