A group of Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz on Thursday calling for an investigation to determine whether they coordinated with the organizers of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The Senate Ethics Committee "should also offer recommendations for strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure, if warranted by the facts uncovered," the seven Democrats, led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, said in a letter to the committee's chair and vice chair.
Hawley, R-Mo., and Cruz, R-Texas, had announced in the days before the riot that they would object to accepting the votes from states that former President Donald Trump falsely claimed to have won during the Jan. 6 electoral vote count, which "amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country," the letter said.
"The question the Senate must answer is not whether Sens. Hawley and Cruz had the right to the object to the electors, but whether the senators failed to '[p]ut loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department' or engaged in 'improper conduct reflecting on the Senate' in connection with the violence on January 6," the letter said.
It noted that both voted to reject electoral votes even after the violence at the Capitol disrupted the counting process.
The letter said "the pair touted their plan to challenge the electors to drum up campaign contributions," even though it is "probable" that both knew the underlying election fraud claims were false. "These solicitations continued during and after the insurrection," the complaint said.
Hawley and Cruz have denied any wrongdoing, and they maintain that they were trying to protect the integrity of the election.
"Joe Biden and the Democrats talk about unity but are brazenly trying to silence dissent. This latest effort is a flagrant abuse of the Senate ethics process and a flagrant attempt to exact partisan revenge," Hawley said in a statement.
Cruz told reporters Tuesday that he hadn't done anything to incite violence. "Debating a question of constitutional law on the floor of the Senate is the antithesis of trying to resolve conflicts through violent terrorist attack," he said.
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The letter, which was also signed by Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, calls for an investigation into whether Hawley and Cruz had any involvement with the rally, where Trump called on his supporters to "fight" the election result to "save" the country.
"The extent, if any, of communication or coordination between Sens. Hawley and Cruz and the organizers of the rally remains to be investigated. Three members of the House of Representatives who coordinated with Sens. Hawley and Cruz to object to the electors, Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Mo Brooks, have been identified as alleged co-architects of the rally. Further investigation is necessary to determine whether and to what extent Senators Cruz and Hawley were also aware of these groups' activities or coordinated with their efforts," the letter said.
The Ethics Committee, which is chaired by Chris Coons, D-Del., had no comment. The committee's Republican vice chair, James Lankford of Oklahoma, initially signed off on Cruz's challenge, but he withdrew his support after the riot.