As they make their case that former President Donald Trump used false claims of a “rigged election” to incite a mob against Congress, House Democrats are excusing the Republican senators who raised similar doubts about the 2020 vote.
GOP senators led by Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) hyped Trump’s baseless fraud claims and, days before Congress was set to certify the election results on Jan. 6. announced that they would object to the results from key states that Democrat Joe Biden carried. Hawley even suggested Congress could determine the next president that day as Trump encouraged his supporters to come to Washington and “stop the steal.”
But the House Democrats pressing a charge of incitement of insurrection are focused on Trump alone. Their formal brief last week said he “is singularly responsible for the violence and destruction that unfolded in our seat of government on Jan. 6.”
As their verbal presentation of the case began Wednesday, the impeachment managers more explicitly stated that they weren’t trying to implicate any senators.
“What our commander-in-chief did was wildly different from what anyone here in this room did to raise election concerns,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said on the Senate floor. “This was a deliberate, premeditated incitement to his base to attack our Capitol while the counting was going on.”
Hawley has said essentially the same thing ― that it’s unfair to criticize him for representing his constituents through a Senate debate on the election results from some states.
But Hawley and Cruz raised the same bogus fraud claims that the ex-president did. They usually did so in a more refined manner, such as by lamenting the unfounded concerns of their constituents and calling for an investigation ― and possible alteration of certain results ― instead of saying outright that the election had been stolen. And no debate about those results, necessitating separate votes in the House and Senate, would have occurred without a senator’s objection that day.
Hawley, as he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, even raised his fist to Trump supporters massed outside the building before they stormed in.
All 100 members of the Senate are jurors in the impeachment trial, so Democrats want to avoid alienating any of them, even if many Republicans have already made clear they will acquit Trump, no matter what.
During Trump’s first impeachment trial over his prodding of Ukraine’s president to smear Biden, Republican senators showed they would take great offense to any slight, as they did during the January 2020 proceedings when then-impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) claimed, based on an unverified report, that Trump had threatened them.
“The whole room was visibly upset on our side of it,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said then.
On Wednesday, impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) lauded the bravery of senators who returned to their desks and voted to certify the election just hours after the mob ransacked the chamber.
“The president was not successful in stopping the certification… thanks to the bravery of our law enforcement and to the bravery of the senators in this room,” Neguse said. “Each of you who still fulfilled your constitutional duty, even under the threat of mortal peril.”
Neguse was too polite and politic to mention that Hawley, Cruz and six other Republican senators still voted to object to the election results, siding with Trump and his mob.