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Senators file ethics complaint against Hawley and Cruz after Capitol riot

The GOP pair expressed support for challenging the election results

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 21 January 2021 23:23 GMT
Josh Hawley dodges question on election challenge
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Seven Democratic senators on Thursday filed an ethics complaint against their colleagues Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both Republicans, seeking to establish a "complete account" of their potential responsibility for election protests that morphed into the violent 6 January attack on the Capitol.

The complaint seeks to probe whether the senators helped contact or coordinate with rally organizers as some in the House are accused of doing, were aware of a threat of violence, and whether “Senators Hawley or Cruz took any action that encouraged the insurrections’ actions, and whether the insurrectionists cited Senators Hawley or Cruz as part of their rationale for storming the Capitol.”

Democratic senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Roy Wyden, Tina Smith, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie K Hirono, Tim Kaine, and Sherrod Brown lodged the action before the Senate Ethics Committee.

“When Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley announced they would object to the counting of state certified electors on January 6, 2021, they amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country,” the group wrote in an accompanying letter. “While Congress was debating Senator Cruz’s objection, a violent mob stormed the Capitol.” 

The two men helped lead a spurious election protest in late December and early January that eventually included 14 Republican senators, backing the president and numerous members of the House as they tried to overturn the election results by objecting to their final ceremonial certification in Congress, despite a mountain of evidence the presidential contest was fairly conducted. 

The group of seven who lodged the ethics filing argued in their letter that Mr Cruz and Hawley deserve "strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure, if warranted by the facts uncovered."

Video from the attack shows demonstrators rifling through documents at the Capitol, and mentioning that they believe the two GOP senators would support what they were doing.

Both men sent out fundraising messages moments before the Capitol was breached, asking for help challenging the election results.

After the riot, which left five people dead, legislators in hiding, and scores of people charged with federal crimes, Mr Hawley returned to the Senate chamber and continued to challenge election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Mr Cruz and Mr Hawley faced a wave of crushing criticism after the insurrection, including corporate backers pulling campaign funds, a lost book deal, law students at their alma matters protesting en masse, calls for their resignation, and Mr Hawley’s former political mentor, GOP Senator Jack Danforth, declaring that his decision to back the fiery Missouri senator was  “the worst mistake I ever made in my life.” 

Both have pushed back against criticisms that they held responsibility for what happened at the Capitol and defended their election protests.

"Many, many citizens in Missouri have deep concerns about election integrity," Mr Hawley wrote in an op-ed in the Southeast Missourian. "For months, I heard from these Missourians — writing, calling my office, stopping me to talk. They want Congress to take action to see that our elections at every level are free, fair, and secure. They have a right to be heard in Congress."

Mr Cruz similarly defended his actions as legitimate.

"What I was doing is debating on the floor of the Senate election integrity," Cruz said during an interview with KXAS-TV in Fort Worth, Texas. "That has nothing to do with this criminal terrorist assault, which was wrong and needs to be prosecuted. It's exactly the opposite. What I was doing is how you're supposed to resolve issues in this country." 

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