The two House Republicans participating in the Democratic-led investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack issued pointed rejoinders to their party’s leadership, defending their own conservative credibility, during the select panel’s first hearing on Tuesday.
An emotional Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois spent much of his questioning time criticizing fellow Republicans who “have treated this as just another partisan fight.” While he didn’t mention House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy by name, the GOP leader has chastised Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming for serving on the panel, calling them “Pelosi Republicans” in a bid to link them to the Democratic speaker who appointed them.
Kinzinger defended his own voting record on Tuesday: “I’m a Republican. I’m a conservative. But in order to heal from the damage caused that day, we need to call out the facts.” Cheney, during her opening statement, made a similar avowal of her stout conservatism since the Reagan era.
The GOP duo on the committee were among the 35 Republicans who voted to create an independent bipartisan commission to probe the riot, a proposal later blocked by senators in their party. After the hearing, Kinzinger shrugged off warnings from fellow House Republicans that he and Cheney could lose their committee assignments for participating in the select panel, saying that “if people want to get petty, that’s fine.”
During his allotted time at the hearing, Kinzinger blasted fellow Republicans who opposed the creation of the select committee after the failure of the bipartisan commission on Jan. 6.
He also teared up while telling the four law enforcement officers who testified that “you guys won,” adding that “democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from bad days, how we take accountability for that.”
“And for all the overheated rhetoric surrounding this committee, our mission is very simple,” Kinzinger added. “It’s to find the truth and it’s to ensure accountability.”
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who also testified on Tuesday, told lawmakers that he’s glad to see Republicans on the select committee.
“We represent the good side of America,” Dunn said, referring to people who are working to get the bottom of what happened on Jan. 6. “Whether we disagree with how [others] vote on a bill about infrastructure, everybody wants the right thing.”
Dunn later questioned the rationality of a political climate that results in Cheney and Kinzinger “being lauded as courageous heroes” for their agreement to participate in the Democratic-led probe that’s expected to home in on former President Donald Trump.
“While I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard?” Dunn asked lawmakers. “I guess, in this America, it is.”
Cheney, who made clear at the outset that she hopes the committee would delve deeply into the White House’s actions during the riot, began her questions by asking Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell how it felt to hear Trump describe the Jan. 6 rioters as a loving crowd.
Gonell responded that it was “upsetting” and a “pathetic excuse for his behavior,” adding that “I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day.”
“If that was hugs and kisses, then we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him,” Gonell said, later apologizing for the “outburst” and making clear that he does not support people going to Trump’s home.
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.