“The question the Senate must answer is not whether Senators 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 Democrats wrote, citing the Code of Ethics for Government Service and the Senate Ethics Manual.
In their letter to the panel’s leaders, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the seven senators also asked the committee to offer disciplinary recommendations, “including up to expulsion or censure.”
In a statement Thursday, Hawley called the complaint “a flagrant abuse of the Senate ethics process and a flagrant attempt to exact partisan revenge.”
A spokesperson for Cruz accused the seven Democrats of “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,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that “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.”
Hawley announced on December 30 that he would object during the Electoral College certification process, defying Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Nearly a dozen other Republican lawmakers, including Cruz, later announced that they, too, would object. But some changed their minds after the midday violence on January 6 — which is something the seven Democrats noted in their complaint.
“By proceeding with their objections to the electors after the violent attack, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause and made future violence more likely,” the Democratic senators wrote.
The seven Democrats wrote Thursday that “The Senate has the exclusive power to determine whether (Hawley’s and Cruz’s) actions violated its ethics rules, to investigate further conduct of which we may not be aware that may have violated these rules, and to consider appropriate discipline.”
They urged investigators to probe issues including whether Hawley, Cruz or members of their offices or campaigns “were in contact or coordinated with the organizers of the rally,” “knew about the plans for the event” or “received funding from organizations or donors that also funded the rally.”
Whitehouse, one of the seven Democrats, told CNN on Thursday afternoon that he sent the letter because “we need to clear up exactly what happened.”
“The only place to get that done effectively is in the Senate, because you can’t trust executive branch agencies to do that investigation because they’re on the wrong side of the separation of powers,” he added.
This story has been updated with a statement from a spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav, Dan Merica, Paul LeBlanc, Katelyn Polantz and Rebecca Grandahl contributed to this report.
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