Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger said Thursday he still supports President Donald Trump despite his criticism of the president’s inflammatory rhetoric earlier this week as “beyond repugnant.”
“The president and I have a good relationship,” said Kinzinger, who has often been critical of Trump’s rhetoric. “This is what people don’t understand. We actually get along well, we respect each other. When we disagree, we tell each other that.”
Kinzinger, speaking to reporters before a congressional hearing on crime at Kennedy-King College in the South Side Englewood neighborhood, also said he didn’t take offense about being the lone Illinois Republican member of Congress left off the state’s leadership team for Trump’s reelection effort.
“I wasn’t asked, it’s fine,” said Kinzinger, who’s from Channahon and represents a far west and southwest suburban district “I don’t think it’s a decision probably that the president made, probably his political operatives.”
Earlier this week, Kinzinger received national attention for rebuking a comment that Trump retweeted from the Rev. Robert Jeffress, of the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas. Jeffress tweeted: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, it will cause a civil war like fracture in this nation from which our country will never heal.”
Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot, responded on Twitter: “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. … I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant.”
On Thursday, Kinzinger said he has “no regrets” about his tweet.
“Some people maybe took that tweet and jumped to this idea that I support impeachment. I don’t. I just didn’t think the president should be tweeting about civil war. I think that, as a guy that’s seen war and also has been to significantly war-torn places, it’s not something (that) anybody should dip a toe in. Even a congressman or city councilman or anybody.”
Kinzinger has been an enigma among Illinois Republicans, first elected in 2010 amid part of the tea party wave of conservatives. But the 41-year-old congressman has also tried to set himself as an independent in the district and has been frequently interviewed on TV over his criticism of Trump’s rhetoric.
Kinzinger on Thursday also weighed in on Trump’s accusation that Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who’s chairs the House intelligence committee and is a key figure in the House impeachment inquiry, may have committed treason with remarks regarding the president’s controversial phone call with the leader of Ukraine.
“We’re going to have over the next few months a lot of people on both sides including the president saying things they shouldn’t say,” Kinzinger said.
But he also pointed out that there are “a lot of Democrats accusing the president of treason.”
“What I said at the beginning is everybody’s going to be saying a lot of stupid stuff and we need to understand that and they need to not say it,” Kinzinger said.
He also disagreed with Trump’s remarks about the whistleblower and how he got information about the president’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump reportedly said: “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
“Yeah, that’s, no, I would not say that,” Kinzinger said. “I think it’s inappropriate to say anything along those lines, like ‘what we did in the old days.’ ”
When a reporter started to ask about other Trump statements, Kinzinger said:
“We could just go down the whole list of Trump tweets. I’ve made it clear that there are things I don’t like that he’s saying. That does not make this impeachment inquiry correct. It also doesn’t mean that I have to every time he tweets, because he tweeted 18 times on Sunday, that I have to respond to every one. I’m not going to do that. But if there’s something like the thing that says civil war, that I don’t agree with, then I’m going to say that.”
In response to a question about Trump’s angry outburst during a news conference with the president of Finland on Wednesday, he also said, “I wouldn’t have acted like that. I don’t like – I want somebody to act more presidential.”
In a missive to Illinois Republicans, the Trump campaign named U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood of Peoria, John Shimkus of Collinsville, Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Mike Bost of Murphysboro as “honorary state chairs” for the president’s reelection campaign.