Democratic colleagues file ethics complaint against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz after Capitol riot

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Seven Democrats in the U.S. Senate have filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for his role lending “legitimacy” to false claims of election fraud ahead of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection in the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In a letter addressed to the Senate Committee on Ethics, the Democratic Senators argue that Cruz and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, “made future violence more likely.” The Democrats called for the committee to conduct an investigation into the two Republican senators and possibly consider “disciplinary action,” which could include the rare move of expulsion from the Senate. The Constitution also grants Congress the ability to censure its members, which is essentially just a strong condemnation from the chamber.

Leading up to the destructive Capitol riot, Cruz, Hawley and other Congressional Republicans vowed to object to the 2020 election results based on former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him. There is no evidence of widespread fraud on a level that would have affected the result. Even after a mob of Trump supporters desecrated the U.S. Capitol, Cruz objected to certifying Arizona’s electoral results and he’s been in political hot water ever since.

Cruz’s office released the following statement:

“It is unfortunate that some congressional Democrats are disregarding President Biden’s call for unity and are instead playing political games by filing frivolous ethics complaints against their colleagues. Sen. Cruz debated a question of law and policy on the floor of the Senate, he did so expressly supported by 11 other Senators, and he utilized a process to raise the objection that has been explicitly authorized by federal law for nearly 150 years. Congressional Democrats have used the same process to object to electors after every single Republican election victory in the 21st Century, objecting in 2001, 2005, and 2017. Indeed, current members of the Senate Democratic Leadership effusively praised their own for using this same process to press for a debate on election integrity in 2005.

“Sen. Cruz has been consistent, forceful, and unequivocal condemning political violence whether from the Left or from the Right. He did so last summer as Democratic officials stood by while cities like Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis burned. And Sen. Cruz immediately condemned the January 6th terrorist attack on the Capitol, calling for everyone who stormed the Capitol to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

On background from a Cruz aide regarding the fundraising text:

“This was an automated text sent from a firm. In no way, shape, or form would Sen. Cruz ever have approved something like that to go out during a riot. He was disgusted by what happened at the Capitol and called on those storming the Capitol to immediately stop the violence.”

The Senate’s ethics manual lays out various rules for U.S. Senators on campaign activity, conflicts of interest, gifts, and what’s considered “improper conduct.” Once an ethics complaint is filed, the manual states that a preliminary inquiry is to be carried out “to conclude that a violation within the jurisdiction of the Committee has occurred.” The process includes allowing the accused to officially respond to the complaints.

At any point in the investigation, the Senate ethics committee can hold a public or executive hearing to cross-examine documents and hear testimonies.

Expelling a sitting Senator requires a two-thirds vote in the chamber while a censuring only requires a majority vote. But not many federal lawmakers have faced such discipline. According to senate.gov, only 15 senators have been expelled since the 18th century — all for their allegiance to the Confederacy — and only nine have been censured between 1811 and 1990 for a variety of “transgressions” like fighting in the chamber.

Cruz denounced the violence, but he has fierce backlash from Democrats, and even some Republicans.

“You have some senators who, for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters, misleading them to believe somehow yesterday’s actions in Congress could reverse the results of the election,” U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said during a Fox News interview.. “That was never going to happen yet these senators, as insurrectionists literally stormed the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails.”