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GOP Leaders Condemn Sen. Josh Hawley After Pro-Trump Riot At U.S. Capitol

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley continues to face intense criticism for his decision to challenge the presidential election results, the futile enterprise that helped fuel pro-Trump rioters.

Hawley was the first U.S. senator to publicly vow to challenge the Electoral College tally, leading the effort with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Shortly before things escalated, a photo was taken outside the Capitol building of Hawley greeting the Trump loyalists with a happy fist-pump.

Lawmakers were scheduled to officially recognize President-elect Biden's win Wednesday but the proceedings were interrupted for hours when a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol building. The event led to a woman being shot and killed by Capitol police, and a police officer dying of injuries sustained in the melee.

As Congress reconvened Wednesday evening, shaken from the violence earlier that day, Hawley continued to challenge the election results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania with the backing of a smaller group of senators than originally planned.

"I actually think it's very vital what we do, the opportunity to be heard, to register objections is very vital. Because this is the place where those objections should be heard and dealt with, debated and finally resolved," Hawley said in a speech late Wednesday evening.

"In this lawful means, peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets," he added.

The challenges were rejected by the majority of the Senate and House.

Since Wednesday, Missouri leaders and constituents as well as members of the GOP establishment have condemned Hawley's actions in the Senate and his rhetoric leading up to the riot.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition Friday, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse called Hawley's challenge to the Electoral College vote, "really dumbass."

When asked if Hawley deserved to be censured by the Senate, Sasse did not reply directly, adding that, "Missourians are the most important people in that conversation."

And many Missourians, including former allies of Hawley, are livid.

A call for censure came from Missouri businessman and former Hawley supporter David Humphreys during an interview with the Missouri Independent on Thursday. Humphreys had previously contributed to Hawley's 2018 Senate run.

The editorial board of The Kansas City Star also came forward on Thursday with an opinion piece advocating for Hawley's immediate resignation or removal from the Senate. Just hours after rioters stormed the Capitol, the editorial board wrote that Hawley had "blood on his hands."

"Hawley's actions in the last week had such impact that he deserves an impressive share of the blame for the blood that's been shed," the editorial board added.

Even Hawley's mentor, former GOP Sen. John Danforth has disavowed him.

"Supporting Josh and trying so hard to get him elected to the Senate was the worst mistake I ever made in my life," Danforth said in an interview Thursday with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hawley also made a statement Thursday, as reported by KMBC in Kansas City.

"I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections. That's my job, and I will keep doing it," the statement said.

Hawley has received additional criticism outside of politics, including from Simon & Schuster, which backed out of publishing his upcoming book.

Hawley called that decision a "direct assault on the First Amendment" and threatened to take legal action.

Hawley is in his first term in the Senate and doesn't face reelection until 2024. Before Wednesday, there was speculation of his possibly running for president in that year.

"This is a man whose ambition has overcome a servant's heart," former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told St. Louis Public Radio on Thursday.

McCaskill was defeated by Hawley in 2018.

"He is way more interested in how he can get elected president than serving the people he was elected to serve," she added.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.