The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol has presented a lot of evidence about the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
They’ve presented evidence that extremist groups planned the attack on the Capitol, that those close to the former President Donald Trump knew about it, that Trump wanted to march to the Capitol on January 6, that Trump was so angry about an interview saying his claims about the election being stolen were untrue and that Trump attempted to convince state officials to overturn the results of the election.
But there’s been little about members of Congress and nothing about U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, the Republican from Missouri who, last year, received blame for legitimizing and encouraging the mob that stormed the Capitol.
Over the course of six hearings, spanning more than 14 hours, Hawley’s name has not come up once. Two hearings that focused extensively on the theories Trump allies tossed out in their effort to overturn the results of the election didn’t even mention the Pennsylvania state constitutional question that Hawley hung his objection on.
Hawley’s name has come up in documents associated with January 6 just once since the committee formed last year, when White House call logs showed that Trump attempted to call Hawley on the morning of the protest. Hawley said the call went to voicemail.
His absence from the proceedings suggests that while Hawley has been able to capitalize on his image as an election objector — his campaign sells a variety of merchandise depicting him pumping his fist to the crowd that would later storm the Capitol and he quadrupled his fundraising total in 2021 — he appears to have had little to do with the inner workings of the Trump-led effort to overturn the results of the election.
Instead, the hearings have shown that Hawley’s objections, along with those of the other 146 Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, were cogs in a larger machine trying to keep former President Donald Trump in office.
Hawley was the first U.S. Senator to say he would object to the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, which turned a ceremonial process into a larger debate about Trump’s debunked claims of voter fraud. A photograph captured of him the morning of the Jan. 6 attack holding a fist up in solidarity with protesters, some of whom later stormed the Capitol as part of a violent mob, further created the appearance that he played a large role in the January 6 insurrection.
But so far, the hearings have made little mention of the lawmakers who objected to the certification of the election, a key step in the Trump allies’ effort to get former Vice President Mike Pence to intervene in the certification of the election.
Only U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who’s staffer exchanged text messages with a Pence staffer about handing over a false slate of electors, is the only senator who has been mentioned. The list of members who sought a pardon from Trump for their role in January 6 include just six members of the House of Representatives who sought a pardon. At least two have denied the claim.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, said he was not surprised Hawley had not yet come up in the hearings. Cleaver is friendly with U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi who chairs the committee, and said he’s been told the committee had to pick what information is the most important to present to the public in the hearings.
“If there’s some evidence that he orchestrated something, I think that’s gonna come out,” Cleaver said. “Surely just the fist thing isn’t going to be enough. As a Democrat, that might not be substantial enough.”
Hawley became the first senator to announce plans to object to certification of the election on December 30, 2020. He issued a statement saying he believed Congress had failed to act on investigating voter fraud. His objection came after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the Republican caucus not to bring an objection, which set off a process where both chambers of Congress were forced to hold votes to certify the electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona.
Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on presidential impeachments, said in an email he suspected Hawley was not closely involved in the plot to overturn the results of the election to keep Trump in power and that his decision to object was about signaling to the Republican base.
“Mitch McConnell wanted no senators to object,” Bowman wrote. “Josh broke ranks in a carefully crafted legalistic way (see the particulars of his objection to Pennsylvania electors) so he could claim the title of being the Trumpiest senator in the post-Trump era, but without actually saying in so many words that he believed the election had been ‘stolen’ in the sense of Trump having actually gotten more votes in the critical states.”
At the U.S. Capitol, Hawley has danced around questions about whether the election was stolen. While he has said he believes Biden is the duly elected president of the United States, he doesn’t denounce claims of widespread voter fraud.
“Of course, there was fraud,” Hawley said. “Nobody disputes there was fraud.”
There was fraud in the 2020 presidential election. At the committee hearing on Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in audits of their election they found 4 voters who were dead. Trump falsely claimed there were thousands.
“You want to ask me if there’s enough fraud to turn up to change the outcome of the election, that’s what you mean,” Hawley said. “We’ll never know the answer to that.”
Though, time and again former officials in the administration of former President Donald Trump have said there was no widespread voter fraud in the election. Witnesses have said the claims were nonsense, had no merit and that the Trump administration had no evidence to prove what they were alleging.
“Bullshit,” said former Trump Attorney General William Barr.
“The major allegations are not supported by the evidence,” said Richard Donaghue, former acting attorney general.
Asked to clarify, Hawley said there has not been a full audit of the results of the election — even though audits in states like Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona, where the vote was close enough to flip, have confirmed that Biden won those states.
“The reason I didn’t base my objection on fraud is that I just don’t know about that,” Hawley said. “I can’t adjudicate that. I don’t have all the information and that’s why I’ve never hung my hat on that. But I could look at the legal stuff. I’m a lawyer.”
His legal dispute also walked a fine rhetorical line. Instead of objecting to a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in which they said they would not hear an argument that the law that allowed mail-in ballots in the 2020 election violated the state constitution because it would disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvania voters, Hawley said he objected to the fact that the case hadn’t been decided on its merit.
The argument, focused on a specific element of a specific case in Pennsylvania, launched a process that former Vice President Mike Pence was pressured to use to overturn the results of the election. The pressure campaign on Pence was made clear in a January 6 committee hearing earlier this month. Protesters who stormed the Capitol chanted “hang Mike Pence.” There was a noose outside.
Not that Hawley would have seen.
“I haven’t watched a second of these hearings,” Hawley said. “I don’t intend to.”