Calls grew among US lawmakers for the resignation of Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz on Thursday, saying that their attempts to overturn US President Donald Trump’s defeat in November’s election fuelled Wednesday’s violent besieging of the Capitol.
Hawley and Cruz, both Republicans, spearheaded attempts to thwart Congress’ ratification of the Electoral College result, recycling disproved claims by Trump of widespread voter fraud in numerous states. Both continued to object when lawmakers reconvened after the attack.
Both are also fierce China hawks with growing portfolios of legislation focused on countering Beijing, and routinely speak out about the erosion of electoral freedoms in Hong Kong, having visited the city during 2019’s pro-democracy protests.
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Since November, Cruz and Hawley have focused their attention on backing Trump’s failed efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the presidential election, with Hawley last month becoming the first senator to announce he would object to Congress’ traditionally ceremonial certification of the result.
Shortly after Republican lawmakers went ahead with those plans to challenge the election result on Wednesday, swarms of Trump supporters breached the Capitol Building, occupying the Senate chamber and clashing with armed police officers.
The melee resulted in the deaths of four people, including a woman who was shot by a police officer as she tried to climb through a window, and multiple hospitalisations.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said he supported calls for Hawley and Cruz to resign, following a similar statement on Wednesday from Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii.
Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot.
Both you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion. https://t.co/O2m6T59LYP
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 7, 2021
Explicit calls from senators on their colleagues to resign are extremely rare, not least those coming from moderate figures like Coons, known for his close working relationship with Republicans.
Calls also grew from House Democrats, among them New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted on Thursday that Cruz “must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday”.
“Both you and Senator Hawley must resign,” said Ocasio-Cortez, one of a number of House Democrats to issue such a demand. “If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion.”
Congressional members in either the House or Senate can be forced out by a two-thirds majority vote by their respective chamber.
Coons’ and Hirono’s offices did not respond to an inquiry about whether they intended to file a formal motion seeking Hawley and Cruz’s expulsion.
In the lower chamber, House Representative Cori Bush of Missouri announced Wednesday she will introduce a resolution demanding sanctions, including removal from the chamber, against House Republicans for having “violated their oath of office” to uphold the constitution.
I believe the Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election must face consequences. They have broken their sacred Oath of Office.
I will be introducing a resolution calling for their expulsion. pic.twitter.com/JMTlQ4IfnR
— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) January 6, 2021
Representatives for Cruz and Hawley, both of whom have four years left in their current terms, did not respond to questions about whether they intended to resign. A spokesman for Hawley referred to remarks the senator delivered Wednesday evening condemning the violence.
Criticism mounted on the two senators beyond Capitol Hill too, with the editorial board of The Kansas City Star newspaper in Hawley’s home state of Missouri writing on Wednesday that he had “blood on his hands” for the day’s violence.
Meanwhile, former Republican senator John Danforth, a stalwart of the Missouri Republican Party who campaigned for Hawley’s election, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday that supporting Hawley was “the worst mistake I ever made in my life”.
That rebuke came as publishers Simon & Schuster said on Thursday they would cancel the publication of an upcoming book by Hawley on big tech companies, citing “his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom”.
In a statement, Hawley called the publisher’s move “Orwellian” and vowed to challenge it in court. “Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment.”
Also on Thursday, the Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) called on Cruz, who is Cuban-American, to resign or else face expulsion.
“Texas LULAC takes no pride in calling for the removal of a sitting United States senator from our beloved state,” the group’s director, Rodolfo Rosales Jnr, said in a statement. “However, Mr Cruz represents a threat to our interests and can no longer be trusted to serve for the betterment of the people of Texas.”
Though he did not single out Cruz or Hawley by name, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton appeared on Fox News on Thursday to criticise senators, who, “for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters” that their challenges in Congress could overturn the election result.
“These senators, as insurrectionists literally stormed the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails,” said Cotton, apparently referring to messages distributed by both Hawley’s and Cruz’s teams on Wednesday afternoon seeking donations from supporters.
Once considered one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate, Cotton added that Wednesday’s violence was “in part” the result of misleading claims around the election.
Weeks of protestations by Trump and his allies alleging widespread fraud in November’s race were married with militant rhetoric at times. Speaking to crowds in Washington on Wednesday morning before the Capitol building’s breach, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, called for a “trial by combat” to settle the election.
At the same rally, Trump said: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”
Additional reporting by Jacob Fromer
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