GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Sunday defended President Joe Biden’s right to weigh in on the prospect of prosecuting those who flout congressional subpoenas to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
“I think the president has made it clear we need answers to this,” Kinzinger, a member of the House select committee probing the events surrounding the attack, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The attorney for former White House strategist Steve Bannon has told the committee he will not comply with the congressional subpoena, citing former President Donald Trump’s invocation of executive privilege. (Bannon had left the administration during Trump’s first year in office.)
On Friday Biden said of those who attempted to defy subpoenas that he hoped the select committee “goes after them and holds them accountable criminally.” When asked if the Justice Department should aid in that effort, Biden responded: “I do, yes.”
The administration quickly sought to clarify Biden’s comments and reassert the independence of DOJ’s decision-making, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki also tweeting, in part, that Biden “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement Friday.
But Kinzinger, a strident critic of Trump’s, said he did not think Biden crossed a line with his comments.
“The president has every right to signal,” he said on CNN. “I think he has every right to make it clear where the administration stands. God knows, the prior administration every two hours was trying to signal to the Justice Department.”
Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, did not rule out eventually issuing a subpoena to Trump himself as part of its investigation. However he noted the risks of doing so, particularly given the complicated constitutional and legal dynamics at play.
“If we subpoena, all of a sudden, the former president, we know that’s going to become kind of a circus,” he said. “That’s not necessarily something we want to do up front.”
Kinzinger, alongside fellow select committee member Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), is one of the most vocal anti-Trump members of the GOP remaining in Congress. However his political future is murky, both in part due to his hostility to the former president and Illinois Democrats’ control of the redistricting process in the state he represents.