WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Moments before riots broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed inside, forcing evacuations, lockdowns and a delay on the certification of Electoral College votes, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had called on his colleagues to challenge President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
Since the November election, the Texas senator has been criticized for supporting debunked claims from the president that the election was tampered with, helping Biden secure a win. Moments before a mob stormed the building on Wednesday, he continued to support unproven claims of national voter fraud as a "profound threat."
An excerpt of his statements can be read below:
"We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis.
"Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe the election that just occurred, quote, was rigged. You may not agree with that assessment, but it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half of the country. I would note it is not just Republicans that believe that – 31% of independents agree with that statement; 17% of Democrats believe the election was rigged. Even if you do not share that conviction, it is the responsibility, I believe, of this office, to acknowledge that is a profound threat to this country and to the legitimacy of any administrations that will come in the future.
"I want to take a moment to speak to my Democratic colleagues. I understand, your guy is winning right now. If Democrats vote as a block, Joe Biden will almost certainly be certified as the next president of the United States.
"I want to speak to the Republicans that are considering voting against these objections. I understand your concerns, but I urge you to pause and think, 'What does it say to nearly half of the country that believes the election was rigged if we vote to not even consider the claims of illegality and fraud in this election?'
"And I believe there is a better way. The leaders just spoke about setting aside the election. Let me be clear, I am not arguing for setting aside the result of this election.
"All of us are faced with two choices, both of which are lousy. One choice is vote against the objection, and tens of millions of Americans will see the vote against the election as a statement that voter fraud doesn't matter, isn't real and shouldn't be taken seriously."
After the violence erupted, the Texas senator spoke out to condemn those who participated in storming the Capitol.
"Violence is always unacceptable. Even when passions run high," he tweeted. "Anyone engaged in violence—especially against law enforcement—should be fully prosecuted. God bless the Capitol Police and the honorable men & women of law enforcement who show great courage keeping all of us safe."
Around 30 minutes later, he added, "Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The Constitution protects peaceful protest, but violence—from Left or Right— is ALWAYS wrong. And those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support."
Several political leaders spoke out against the senator, blaming him for inciting the riots, including his former competitor Beto O'Rourke.
"It is your self serving attempt at sedition that has helped to inspire these terrorists and their attempted coup," O'Rourke said.
That drew a response from Sen. Cruz:
"Stop stoking division. Stop spreading hatred. Stop using malicious rhetoric (such as false & reckless charges of 'sedition'). Stop showing contempt for the half of the country that disagrees with you. Violence is wrong. We can do better. We are one Nation. #EPluribusUnum"
The senator has faced calls for his resignation for his attempts to stop the vote certification, including from Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro.
"Ted Cruz is a highly intelligent guy," Castro told the Texas Tribune. "He knows what he's doing and he knows that he's wrong."
The Texas Democrats have also called on Cruz to immediately resign "for acting in bad faith" and for the Justice Department to investigate him for "inciting sedition and treason."
"Today is a shock, but not a surprise. In the weeks since Ted Cruz declared his intentions, many have warned of the devastating harm that deceitful rhetoric can and will have. Nevertheless, Ted Cruz acted in bad faith by leveraging fringe theories and blatant disinformation to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election results and position himself in the 2024 Republican presidential primary," Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in part. "Texas Democrats call on Ted Cruz to resign from office immediately. Cruz's actions have undermined our democracy, inspired treasonous, seditious acts, and brought shame to Texas."
Cruz also drew criticisms from a political action committee.
"Ted Cruz incited the riot we saw today," said Zack Malitz, spokesperson for Boot Texas Republicans PAC. "Cruz told the country that the election was stolen. Cruz undermined public faith in the election by suggesting that there is a conspiracy to overturn the will of the people. Texas Republicans are beyond irresponsible, they have failed Texas and they have failed our democracy. Words have consequences, and Cruz’s words helped incite violence today. Ted Cruz must resign."
As Congress reconvened to resume its Electoral College count, the Senate defeated the first objection for Arizona, 93-6, with Cruz among the six voting yes. As of 9:20 p.m., the House is still debating that objection, with several more still to be voted on. Click here for live updates.
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