- Rep. Adam Kinzinger says the US must prosecute "straight-up coup attempts."
- The Jan. 6 Committee is making the case for prosecuting Trump and his inner circle.
- Kinzinger said he "cannot imagine how this democracy survives long-term" without accountability for Jan 6.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House January 6 Committee, said then-President Donald Trump and his aides' roles in the Capitol riot must be prosecuted for American democracy to persevere "long-term" in an interview on The Bulwark's podcast.
"Yes, we don't want to be a country that prosecutes the last administration," Kinzinger told The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes. "But if we let the last administration get away with what the last administration tried to get away with, or frankly, got away with, I cannot imagine how this democracy survives long-term."
"We just have to be able to say, we're not going to prosecute the last administration for political differences, but we have to for straight up coup attempts," Kinzinger added.
The Justice Department and the committee, conducting separate but parallel probes, have clashed publicly and behind the scenes over their respective tactics and the paces of their investigation.
The DOJ publicly griped about the January 6 Committee initially not turning over interview transcripts that could aid its prosecutions. The committee, meanwhile, was incensed at the Department for not prosecuting former Trump aides Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino after referring them for contempt of Congress for defying the panel's subpoena.
Kinzinger said that before the Committee began holding its hearings, he was "very frustrated" with the pace of the DOJ's investigation into the Capitol riot and suggested that, in the end, the hearings may have been the catalyst that "lit a fire" under the DOJ investigation.
The committee is methodically gathering and presenting evidence that Trump broke at least five federal laws in his actions leading up to the Capitol riot in its hearings, Insider's Camila DeChalus has reported, making the case for prosecutions.
Kinzinger said that the hearings are serving as a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, calling the concept of a formal referral on paper "kind of an invented thing." The committee can issue a formal referral for criminal charges to the Justice Department, which has led to the charging of two Trump advisers. A trial for Steve Bannon, who is charged with defying the committee Kinzinger serves on, is underway.
"DOJ obviously knows what we know and they're investigating it. Whether we send them a piece of paper quote-unquote 'referring' or not really won't have much basis," Kinzinger explained. "That said, we still may do it, just to make the point."
Kinzinger said the Committee will decide on whether to do so "later in the summer or fall," when the panel plans to issue its initial report on its findings.
"I think we're all waiting for this kind of moment where there's some thing, but the truth is, it's kind of awkward to say how you end these things. And it's just the American people knowing the truth is very important," Kinzinger said.