Republicans recoil from Missouri Senator Hawley after siege


Jan 9, 2021


O’FALLON, Mo. — A Republican colleague rebuked him on the Senate floor. A home-state newspaper editorial board declared he has “blood on his hands.” But for Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who staged an Electoral College challenge that became the focus of a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, the words of his political mentor were the most personal.

“Supporting Josh Hawley … was the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life,” former Missouri Sen. John Danforth told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He has consciously appealed to the worst. He has attempted to drive us apart and he has undermined public belief in our democracy. And that’s great damage.”

Aside from President Donald Trump, who roiled up supporters just before they stormed the Capitol, no politician has been more publicly blamed for Wednesday’s unprecedented assault on American democracy than Hawley. The 41-year-old first-term senator, a second-tier player through much of the Trump era, has rapidly emerged as a strident Trump ally, and may be among the most tarnished by the events of Jan. 6 for years to come.

“There will be political fallout for his actions,” said Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist and former adviser to the 2016 presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who like Hawley, drew significant criticism for pushing ahead with the Electoral College challenge.

“The initial decision to oppose the will of the people was downright wrong,” Stewart said. “The post-insurrection calculation to continue the charade is fallacious and dangerous.”

The Kansas City Star went a step further, saying in an editorial posted late Wednesday that no one other than Trump was more responsible than Hawley.

“Assault on democracy: Sen. Josh Hawley has blood on his hands in Capitol coup attempt,” read the headline of the editorial.

Hawley, who defeated Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018, was once celebrated by the Republican establishment as a rising star. The Stanford- and Yale- educated lawyer was young, ambitious and savvy.

It surprised some when he was first to announce he would endorse false claims of fraud and take up Trump’s cause, forcing House and Senate votes that would inevitably fail and in no way alter the election’s outcome.

Support of the challenge to the electoral vote count was seen as keeping in good stead with Trump’s supporters, who dominate the Republican base.

The move instantly raised his national profile. Soon Hawley and Cruz were leading about 10 other senators in the effort — notably not winning over Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska or Tom Cotton of Arkansas, two other young Republicans viewed as having presidential ambitions.

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