Senator Josh Hawley doesn’t have any regrets about offering a proud fist pump gesture to Trump supporters in the moments before hundreds of them stormed the US Capitol on 6 January in an attempt to overturn the election results. The violent riot left five dead and more than 100 injured.
“I waved to them, gave them the thumbs up, pumped my fist to them and thanked them for being there, and they had every right to do that,” the Missouri Republican said on Monday on the Washington Post Live broadcast.
A photo of Mr Hawley cheering on the demonstrators became one of the most iconic images from the day of the Capitol attack.
The senator said it wasn’t fair to lump in peaceful protesters outside the Capitol with the rioters who attacked it about an hour after he waved to them.
“I don’t know which of those protesters, if any of them, those demonstrators, participated in the criminal riot,” Mr Hawley told the Post. “And I think it’s a slur on the thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of people who came to the Capitol that day to demonstrate peacefully to lump them in with the criminal rioters and say, ‘Oh, you’re all basically the same.’”
What Mr Hawley, the peaceful protesters, and the violent ones all had in common on that day, however, was a belief that the election results were compromised and Joe Biden wasn’t yet the rightful winner. The Missouri senator, who led the charge in challenging the vote in the Senate to begin with, was one of the multiple Republicans who continued objecting to the election results even after Congress resumed its sessions the night of the riots.
No evidence of meaningful voting irregularities in the 2020 election have been found after numerous battleground state recounts, election lawsuits, and audits from election authorities, a fact even Trump administration officials like former US attorney general William Barr have acknowledged.
Mr Hawley’s efforts to dispute the election attracted condemnation from his Democratic colleagues, who filed an ethics complaint, and inspired hometown papers and former political allies in Missouri to declare the senator had “blood on his hands.”
The only clear cut examples of meddling in the vote count were from former president Trump himself, who spread numerous baseless claims about the election and directly pressured officials in Georgia to “find” more votes so that he would win the state.