Seven Senate Democrats filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday seeking an investigation into Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) after they led the effort to object to the results of the 2020 election in the Senate. That effort, as part of former President Donald Trump’s failed plan to overturn the election, ultimately led to a mob storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving five people dead, including a police officer.
Such an investigation is the first step for the Senate to consider punishment, including expulsion, for its members.
Cruz and Hawley were the first two Republican senators to announce that they would join Trump’s effort to overturn his election loss by objecting Jan. 6 to the Electoral College votes from a handful of states President Joe Biden had won. But the counting was disrupted by an insurrection of Trump supporters incited by the former president at a rally near the White House.
Even after the insurrection at the Capitol, where both houses of Congress were meeting to certify the results, Cruz and Hawley maintained their objections to counting the electoral votes that had been certified by Arizona and Pennsylvania based on Trump’s lies about widespread fraud.
“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 alleges.
Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) filed the complaint. It asks the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Cruz and Hawley for potentially coordinating with the insurrectionists or encouraging their actions and into whether the two senators violated the Senate Code of Official Conduct.
The code states that senators must “[p]ut loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department” and “[u]phold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.” The complaint notes that the House of Representatives has disciplined members for violating this code.
Cruz and Hawley were not just the leaders of the Senate effort to object to counting Biden electors ― an effort based on lies ― but they also played to the crowd of insurrectionists before, during and after the insurrection took place, according to the complaint.
As Hawley entered the Senate to object to the election results, he raised a fist in salute to the insurrectionists who had already reached the Capitol grounds and would soon overpower the U.S. Capitol Police to break into the building.
With the riot underway, the political campaigns of Cruz and Hawley sent out fundraising solicitations citing their efforts to object to the election results. Hawley’s campaign sent an email fundraising solicitation while the insurrectionists were inside the Capitol. It called for contributions as the senator was “leading the charge to fight for free and fair elections.”
The complaint asks the committee to examine six questions as part of its investigation:
Whether the senators or their staff were in contact or coordinated with the insurrectionists or other planners of the “Save America Rally.”
Whether they were aware of such contacts made by other lawmakers.
If they failed to warn senators of plans for violence.
If they received money from any groups or individuals involved.
If they encouraged the actions of the insurrectionists in any way.
Whether they engaged in any other illegal, unethical or improper behavior.
The complaint notes that the mere objection to the counting of electoral votes is within the rights of a senator but that Cruz and Hawley, and possibly others, “went beyond that.”
“Both senators announced their intention to object to the electors after baseless claims of election fraud, which upon information and belief they knew to be baseless, had led to threats of violence,” the complaint states. “Both senators persisted in their objections after those threats came to fruition. Their actions lend credence to the insurrectionists’ cause and set the stage for future violence.”
The complaint suggests that the other senators who objected to counting electoral votes ― Republicans Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), John Kennedy (La.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) ― may also need to be investigated.
In an awkward twist, the complaint is addressed to the leading Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), and Republican, Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), on the committee. Lankford was one of the other senators who planned to object to the electoral votes. In fact, he was explaining his objection on the floor of the Senate at the moment senators were rushed off the floor as rioters neared the chamber.
Unlike Cruz and Hawley, Lankford changed his mind and did not vote to object.