Josh Hawley’s former political patron has no patience for the Missouri Republican’s effort to escape accountability for his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Hawley has gone on a media tour this week to claim he wasn’t trying to cancel Joe Biden’s voters when he objected to Congress certifying the election result, that he never intended for people to believe Donald Trump could remain president, and that a “liberal mob” is now trying to “muzzle” him just for doing his job.
But that’s all “baloney,” said John Danforth, who represented Missouri in the Senate from 1976 to 1995 and previously helped Hawley advance his career.
Hawley has repeatedly appeared on Fox News and Missouri radio. Danforth has shadowed him on MSNBC and Missouri radio as well.
“He was instrumental by his actions in creating perhaps the darkest day in American history. He brought it about,” the 84-year-old Republican said Thursday on Missouri radio station KMOX. “He said repeatedly that this election is in doubt and it’s going to be decided on this momentous day of Jan. 6, so he created this situation.”
Hawley was the first Senate Republican to say he would object to the certification, and in the days leading up to Jan. 6 said it was time to “stand up” and that the day’s events would determine the next president.
Two days before the riot, Hawley said Donald Trump’s fate “depends on what happens on Wednesday.”
As law enforcement continues to arrest suspects and investigate the ransacking of the Capitol, and the Senate weighs whether to convict Trump after the House impeached him for inciting the mob, Hawley is now the Republican most brazenly denying he had anything to do with it.
In his own interview on KMOX this week, Hawley said that it’s a “lie” from the “liberal mob” that he wanted to overturn the election. Host Mark Reardon, seemingly exasperated by Hawley’s refusal to acknowledge his role, at one point asked if Hawley at least agreed that the attack on the Capitol had not been a false flag attack by the supposedly fearsome anti-fascist group known as antifa, as some far-right lawmakers have claimed.
“And by the way, it wasn’t antifa, OK? Can we agree with that? It wasn’t antifa, was it?”
“I don’t know ― I don’t have any evidence that it was antifa,” Hawley said. “I think the criminal rioters ought to go to jail and be punished to the fullest extent of the law, just like the rioters in cities across this country all summer long.”
He then told Reardon, a conservative libertarian, “I would caution you, fight for the First Amendment here, don’t be part of the lie!”
“What am I lying about?” Reardon asked, seeming taken aback.
Another Missouri radio host this week, Pete Mundo of KCMO, practically begged Hawley to acknowledge that he’d hyped Jan. 6 as an opportunity to keep Trump in office.
“We had people every day calling up and saying, ‘Hey, Donald Trump’s still going to be president,’ and your name would obviously come up, doing this show in Kansas City,” Mundo said. “Do you look back on that time and regret misleading people in some way?”
“No. I didn’t mislead anybody. I was very careful ― very explicit about what I was doing,” Hawley said, going on to explain that all he wanted to do was get Congress to launch an investigation into election fraud before certifying the election result.
Here’s how that investigation would have played out: Once a special commission’s 10-day audit of the election had been completed, according to a summary of the proposed scheme from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), “individual states would evaluate the commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.”
In other words, the plan explicitly contemplated changing the result of the election ― but Hawley won’t admit it, no matter how obvious it is, no matter what he said before.
Almost immediately after the riot, Danforth said he regretted mentoring Hawley, which he reiterated this week.
“That sounds like a throwaway thing ― ‘You know last night I had the best dinner of my life,’ that kind of thing,” Danforth told KMOX. “But just thinking about it, it was the biggest mistake because it was the most consequential.”