Mo Brooks, Josh Hawley, and Ted Cruz made this happen. They weren’t alone, of course; they were among nearly 140 of their colleagues in the House and a dozen in the Senate who legitimized Donald Trump’s braying about nonexistent election fraud, and who began to give voice to it on Capitol Hill Wednesday when they were supposed to be certifying the votes of the American people. But Brooks in the House, and Hawley and Cruz in the Senate, were some of the highest-profile instigators of this grotesque last stand and share the blame with the president who incited Wednesday’s unprecedented assault on the government he supposedly leads.
Trump, of course, has been sowing doubt in the electoral process since before a vote was even cast, laying the groundwork for a challenge to the loss he seemed poised to suffer to Joe Biden. When that loss came to pass, he launched the baseless claims he’d loaded into the chamber, crying fraud without even respecting Americans’ intelligence enough to create a consistent conspiracy theory. It wasn’t only nutjobs like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell who took up the call; GOP lawmakers, including leaders like Kevin McCarthy, signed onto a protest against the free and fair results in Trump’s name—all while the president called on his supporters to descend on D.C. for a “wild” demonstration. That all led to this: A terror attack on democracy, orchestrated from the highest office in the land and enabled by people all too willing to go along with the madness, even after it exploded into an all-out siege.
Each denounced the violence, of course. Brooks, in a statement, said that “consistent with my history, I ALWAYS condemn lawlessness and violence of any kind,” and called for “the judicial system to prosecute these thugs to the fullest extent of the law.” Cruz on Twitter said that “violence is always unacceptable.” Hawley, through his press office, thanked law enforcement and said the “violence must end.”
But far more important than their perfunctory calls for peace were the things these lawmakers did and said before and after the chaos, which left four people dead. Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, was the first United States representative to announce he’d challenge Biden’s victory, and organized the protest in the House against the results. He began his day Wednesday by riling up the very “thugs,” as he’d later call them, who stormed the building where he works. “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names,” he said in remarks to the rioters, “and kicking ass.” Hawley arrived at work by raising his fist in solidarity with the people who would later prove to be violent insurrectionists. Cruz, who had elbowed ahead of Hawley to become the ringleader of the Senate seditionists, spent weeks giving weight to the “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud” that had supposedly been swirling since Election Day, and continued to do so in a floor speech Wednesday—an hour or so before everything went to shit.
And what did they do afterward? After the halls of congress were breached, and lawmakers, aides, staff, journalists, and Vice President Mike Pence were forced to duck and cover? After Trump extremists took over the chambers, broke into the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, waved Confederate flags in the rotunda? After the armed standoff and the four dead and the unhinged president telling the terrorists that they are “special” and that he loves them and telling them to “remember this day forever?” Some of the lawmakers, including Kelly Loeffler and James Lankford, withdrew their objections. But not Cruz, Hawley, and Brooks. Hawley still cast doubt on the election results in a speech to the Senate Wednesday night. He, Cruz, John Kennedy, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Roger Marshall, Tommy Tuberville, Rick Scott, and Cynthia Lummis objected to the results in the Senate. Brooks was among 138 Republicans in the House, including McCarthy and his deputy, Steve Scalise, to still try to overturn the election; by the end of the evening, he was already pushing the theory that it was “likely” that the attack on Capitol Hill was not carried out by frenzied Trump supporters, but antifa.
Please, don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol. Wait for investigation. All may not be (and likely is not) what appears. Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.
— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) January 7, 2021
For years now, Republicans have been treating this all as a game. And those like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, who have been enabling and legitimizing Trump since 2016, don’t get to wash their hands of this mayhem just because they did what they were supposed to do Wednesday and formalized Biden’s win. But the people like Brooks, Hawley, and Cruz manage to be even worse, and are as ill-suited to hold public office as the maniac they serve. Even after this Kool Aid moment, they continue to preach the gospel of Trump, all while refusing to shoulder any blame for what they helped foment.
“Do you guys think you have any responsibility for what happened here today?” NBC News’ Garrett Haake asked Senator Ron Johnson, who ultimately did not vote to object as planned but who has spread the president’s conspiracy theories and lies.
“No, no,” the Wisconsin senator replied. “Absolutely not.”
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