GOP Air National Guardsman in Congress: Convict Trump and Save America

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks to the media, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

An Air National Guard lieutenant colonel who also serves as a U.S. representative from Illinois wants to hold former President Donald Trump accountable by convicting him during his impeachment trial.

In an Washington Post Op-Ed titled, "My fellow Republicans, convicting Trump is necessary to save America," Rep. Adam Kinzinger made the case Monday to convict Trump on the charge of "incitement of insurrection."

Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. Lawmakers charged him last month with "inciting violence against the government of the United States" over the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

"Impeachment offers a chance to say enough is enough," Kinzinger wrote. "I firmly believe the majority of Americans -- Republican, Democrat, independent, you name it -- reject the madness of the past four years. But we'll never move forward by ignoring what happened or refusing to hold accountable those responsible. That will embolden the few who led us here and dishearten the many who know America is better than this. It will make it more likely that we see more anger, violence and chaos in the years ahead."

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Kinzinger challenged those who claim the second trial, currently underway in the Senate, sows more division or is "a waste of time."

"It's a matter of accountability," he wrote. "If the GOP doesn't take a stand, the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened -- so it doesn't happen again."

Kinzinger, an RC-26 pilot in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, has been an outspoken critic of other Republican lawmakers who sought to overturn some states' electoral results prior to the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

Last month, he was one of 10 Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment.

Since the vote, the Illinois Republican has received backlash from constituents calling him a traitor or RINO, which stands for "Republican In Name Only," according to The Atlantic.

Kinzinger admitted he'll likely face opposition during the 2022 primary election, telling CNN's political consultant and strategist David Axelrod that voting for the impeachment mattered more than his political ambitions.

"I did it knowing full well it could very well be terminal to my career," Kinzinger said last month during an episode of "The Axe Files." "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."

Kinzinger took time off from his political duties in February 2019 when he deployed with his intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unit to the southern U.S. border for the security mission.

His situation as both a member of the military and a lawmaker could put him in a precarious position.

A spokesman with the Wisconsin National Guard emphasized that the Guard was apolitical.

"Congressman Kinzinger’s comments on political matters occur in his capacity as a congressman, when he is not on duty or acting in his National Guard capacity," Maj. Joe Travato said in a statement to Military.com.

Law experts have questioned whether service members, even retired, may speak out against superiors, and whether they would be subject to Uniform Code of Military Justice disciplinary action. According to the Lawfare Blog, "contemptuous speech" is prohibited by Article 88 of the UCMJ.

It criminalizes "contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State," Lawfare's Rick Houghton, an Army veteran, wrote of the provision.

Article 134 of the UCMJ speaks to "the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces," and any "conduct of a nature that brings discredit upon the armed forces."

It's not clear whether the measure applies to Kinzinger since Trump is no longer the commander in chief.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comment from the Wisconsin National Guard.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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