Prominent Texas Republicans criticized the actions of a pro-Trump extremist mob at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have been at the forefront of conspiracy theories and court cases around the results of the 2020 presidential election. On Tuesday, Paxton spoke at a Trump rally in D.C. that preceded the insurrection.
"What we have in President Trump is a fighter," Paxton said. "And I think that’s why we’re all here. We will not quit fighting."
Around the same time, Sen. Cruz raised a formal objection to the certification of electoral votes from Arizona, kicking off a lengthy floor debate.
When pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, Cruz and Paxton quickly urged them to remain peaceful.
In a written response to TPR inquiries, Cruz's press office forwarded a quote from one of his floor speeches.
Cruz laid out a false binary choice facing senators: either certify the election results over objections when "Americans will see a vote against the objection as a statement that voter fraud doesn't matter, isn't real, and shouldn't be taken seriously."
The other choice, as presented by Cruz: enact an electoral commission to look into unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud — which have been intensified by Cruz's rhetoric — and then allow state legislatures to appoint alternate electors.
"Let me be clear: I am not arguing for setting aside the result of this election," he said.
But his preferred path would break with precedent and kickstart a path that could lead to a different election result.
Cruz and others have failed to produce evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
After the insurrectionists were removed and the session re-convened, several Republicans changed course. Notably, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler — who was just defeated in a runoff election — said the day's events changed her mind about raising objections against the 2020 presidential election.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney praised Loeffler and begged other members of the party to follow her lead.
"For any who remain insistent on an audit in order to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen, I'd offer this perspective: no congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say that the election was stolen," Romney said. "The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth."
Nonetheless, several senators continued spreading unsubstantiated rhetoric about "irregularities" in the election process, and Cruz ultimately voted to not certify results from Arizona. Texas Senator John Cornyn opposed the attempt and voted to certify the results.
In the end, only six senators voted to not certify the results from Arizona. Seven voted to decertify results from Pennsylvania. Other objections were expected, but several senators soured on the idea after the insurrection.
In the weeks leading up to the joint session, Texas congressman Louie Gohmert filed a lawsuit and multiple appeals in his effort to overturn the election. As his litigation repeatedly failed, he told Newsmax that "the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM."
On Wednesday, he tweeted "Please people; no violence."
The Texas GOP removed its sergeant-at-arms, Walter West, over a series of Facebook posts in which he expressed support for the extremists' actions.
In a written statement, the Texas GOP said, "Whereas we vigorously support the First Amendment right to freely assemble, we condemn violence and pray for all gathering in our nation's capital and those at the Capitol Building. The Texas GOP has always been on the side of law and order and will remain so."
Most Texas GOP press statements include a quote from chairman Allen West, but this release did not. Allen West (no relation to Walter West) has been one of the most radical voices of the Republican Party in Texas.
He fully embraced several conspiracy theories during his tenure and even alluded to QAnon. He has also said, without evidence, that the presidential election was stolen.
Meanwhile, Paxton promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that the extremists who stormed the Capitol were actually "Antifa thugs." All available evidence contradicted this claim.
While Cruz and Paxton pushed back on the results of a fair and free election, some other Texas Republicans stood by the outcome.
Republicans like former congressman Will Hurd said that the storming of the Capitol “should be treated like a coup led by a president that will not be peacefully removed from power.”
Earlier in the week, Congressman Chip Roy forced other Republicans into an on-the-record vote when he opposed the seating of representatives from six key battleground states. The opposition was intended to point out the irony underlying Republicans’ acceptance of the results in some races, but not of those in the presidential race.
Roy tweeted that he remained beholden to his constitutional duty, even as extremists stormed the House floor.
During the House debate on Sen. Cruz's objection to the Arizona results, Roy said "I will not be voting to reject the electors, and that vote may well sign my political death warrant. But so be it. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and I will not bend its words into contortions for personal political expediency."
Although more than a dozen Texas congressional representatives voted to decertify results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, both the Senate and the House overwhelming rejected those efforts.
U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa both said on Wednesday that Cruz should resign.
Hinojosa told TPR that President Trump also bears some responsibility for the insurrection.
“This is shameful on their part, and it's something that has deeply hurt our democracy,” he said. “And you saw today what happens when you do this stuff — it empowers people, like these people that showed up at the Capitol, to decide that they want to take over the government by force.”
Hinojosa said the event reminded him of images from a “banana republic.”
“I think that's what it was intended to be: a coup,” he said. “This is an effort by people — who were being encouraged by the President of the United States, and people like Ted Cruz — to take the law into their own hands, and to force the declaration of Donald Trump to be the president of the United States, when he lost the election, when the people in the United States voted by almost 8 million votes to kick him out of office.”
He said Cruz should resign, and the Republican Party should take steps to restore trust in American democracy.
“I think the only thing that can happen is if the leadership of the Republican Party steps up and takes the responsible action of letting the American public know that this is something that they do not stand for — that they are opposed to,” he said. “And publicly castigating the members of their party — including President Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — for engaging in this conduct.”
Updated at 3:30 p.m. CT
The U.S. Capitol was engulfed in chaos on Wednesday, as supporters of President Trump, responding to his call to head there, breached the complex, resulting in violence in the seat of America's federal government.
The surreal and dangerous scene interrupted proceedings in the House and Senate, as members of Congress were taking up President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
For two months, Trump has falsely claimed the election was stolen from him, and dozens of fellow Republicans planned to object to slates of electors from various states they considered contested.
Lawmakers were debating Arizona's results — a state Trump lost narrowly — when the sessions were recessed as the U.S. Capitol Police attempted to put the complex on lockdown.
But violent protesters were seen smashing windows, and occupying the House and Senate floors and various offices. Police were seen with guns drawn in the House chamber, pointing their firearms at windows that were smashed.
People inside the building were told to shelter in place, and members of Congress were told that tear gas was being used in the Capitol rotunda and that they should get ready to put on masks on.
A person suffering from a gunshot wound was transported by Washington, D.C., EMS from the Capitol, an official with knowledge of the matter tells NPR.
On Twitter, Trump asked people to remain peaceful. He then posted a video on Twitter, asking people to go home — but not before reiterating his baseless claims about the election being stolen and saying: "You're very special."
His response to the violence came just a few hours after a midday address to supporters outside the White House, in which he repeatedly denied the results of the election, claiming without evidence that it was rigged against his campaign.
"This election was stolen from you, from me, from the country," he said in the earlier remarks. He also urged his supporters to head to the Capitol, adding: "You'll never take back our country with weakness."
Vice President Pence more forcefully condemned the violence, saying that the chaos engulfing the Capitol was an "attack on our Capitol," and tweeting that people involved must "immediately leave the building" and would be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In televised remarks, Biden called on Trump to "go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege" at the Capitol.
"Let me be very clear," Biden added, "the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not reflect who we are," he said, calling the violent protestors a "small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness."
"It borders on sedition and it must end now," Biden said. "It's not protest; it's insurrection."
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