Weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol in a deadly insurrection, an ethics complaint has been filed against Republicans Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, as Democrats argue they "lent legitimacy" to the former president's claims of election fraud that spurred the rioters.
Hawley, 41, and Cruz, 50, were among the Republicans who objected to Congress' certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory, lending credence to Trump's baseless argument that the election had been stolen from him — the same claims he and his allies made at a Trump rally just before the rioting.
Hawley was also photographed raising his fist in support earlier on Jan. 6, before the attack, when some Trump supporters had gathered at the Capitol but before a larger group descended into violence that afternoon.
Last Thursday, seven Democratic lawmakers said that Hawley and Cruz's objection to the votes were grounds for an investigation by 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 complaint reads. "While Congress was debating Senator Cruz's objection, a violent mob stormed the Capitol … By proceeding with their objections to the electors after the violent attack, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob's cause and made future violence more likely."
The complaint was signed by Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Tina Smith, Mazie Hirono, Sherrod Brown, Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal and Tim Kaine.
On Monday, four days later, Missouri Sen. Hawley filed a counter-complaint, writing in a letter to the Democrats that punishing him would be "utterly antithetical to our democracy."
"The idea that one Senator who disagrees with another Senator can therefore have that Senator punished, sanctioned, censured, or removed is utterly antithetical to our democracy and the very idea of open, lawful debate," Hawley wrote in his Monday letter.
He closed his letter by writing that he would "not be intimidated" by attempts to blame him for inciting the riot.
The dueling ethics complaints underscore the fallout from the attack, which forced lawmakers into hiding as throngs of Trump's supporters overwhelmed police and breached the Capitol. Five people died in connection with the violence, including a Capitol Police officer.
The former president, who had long claimed without evidence that the election was somehow rigged against him, urged rally-goers to march to the building and "fight like hell" to overturn the results of the presidential election.
While he also encouraged them to be peaceful and patriotic, he later praised the rioters as "very special" and tweeted that "these are the things and events that happen" because he lost.
Trump was subsequently impeached by the House of Representatives for incitement just days before he left office. He will soon go on trial in the Senate.
The ethics complaint filed against them argues that Cruz and Hawley "lent legitimacy to President Trump's false statements about election fraud by announcing that they would object to the certification of electors on January 6."
Hawley became the first senator to announce that he would object, tweeting on Dec. 30: "Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard. I will object on January 6 on their behalf."
On Jan. 2, Texas Sen. Cruz announced that he and ten other GOP senators would also pursue Trump's unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud object by rejecting the certification of Electoral College votes unless an "emergency 10-day audit" of votes was completed.
Hawley has since had a planned book deal canceled, a decision the lawmaker compared to a "woke mob," though another publisher soon took over the project.
According to a New York Times timeline of the events on Jan. 6, Cruz was arguing that the Senate should not certify Arizona's electoral votes just minutes prior to the mob breaching the doors of the Capitol.
While both Hawley and Cruz have denounced the violence, they've also pushed back against criticism for their comments leading up to the insurrection.
In an interview with CNN's Manu Raju, Hawley said he "was very clear from the beginning that I was never attempting to overturn the election," despite numerous statements he made in the wake of the election suggesting that then-President Trump could potentially remain in office despite Biden beating him.
Cruz, meanwhile, has shot back at those who accused him of "stoking division" with his actions, arguing critics of his actions were "showing contempt for the half of the country that disagrees with you."
Representatives for Cruz and Hawley did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday.
Surveys have found that more than half of American voters did trust the results of the election.
The House voted 232-197 in favor of Trump's second impeachment, with 10 Republican representatives joining the Democratic majority.
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