“I did it knowing full well it could very well be terminal to my career,” Kinzinger said of his vote. “But I also knew that I couldn’t live with myself having, you know, try to just protect it and just felt like the one time I was called to do a really tough duty, I didn’t do it.”
“I’ll say to anybody that thinks my vote was for politics, they don’t know me. And I would say now they don’t know politics because, you know, you have to get through a primary,” Kinzinger added. “And would it make me more able to win a general election? Probably. But that’s not why I did it.”
Kinzinger had been considering “a statewide path” in late 2020, he told Axelrod, “but everything changed on January 6.”
“I’m more passionate about this country than I think I was January 5, even,” he continued. “I know my passion is the restoration of the Republican Party. I know I may go down fighting like that.”
While he said he wasn’t sure what his next step would be, Kinzinger noted that he would like to run for the House again and that it would probably not be statewide.
“I just know that in my 5-meter target — to use a military term, which is whatever your nearest target is — I know that the battle right now is on to restore the GOP, and that’s what I’m focused on doing,” he added.
“I think this is one of those votes that that transcends any kind of political implication of the moment,” Kinzinger said at the time. “This is one of those that you’re going to look back on when you’re 80 and this will be the one you talk about.”
Kinzinger also said at the time that he didn’t feel pressure from the party but that his constituents were all over the place and he didn’t know how many of his Republican colleagues would be joining him to vote for impeaching Trump.
CNN’s Annie Grayer and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.