GOP group also targets Rep. Louie Gohmert, who suggested ‘go to the streets and be…violent’ to those upset by Joe Biden’s victory.
A group of anti-Trump Republicans has posted billboards around Texas trying to make Sen. Ted Cruz squirm by implicating him in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol and demanding he resign.
Cruz repeatedly blamed President Donald Trump’s defeat on fraud, a claim he persisted in leveling even after dozens of state and federal courts threw out such allegations, and all 50 states certified the election result.
The $1 million campaign from the Republican Accountability Project also takes aim at East Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, who repeatedly suggested violence as a reasonable course of action for Trump supporters who didn’t accept the defeat.
The billboards read: “You lied about the election. The Capitol was attacked.” Below that, beside a close-up of the senator’s face, it says, “SEN. CRUZ: RESIGN” in large letters. Gohmert’s congressional district has been decorated with a half-dozen billboards that substitute his name and photo.
“They have been two of the most vocal enablers of the `stop the steal’ narrative….Their rhetoric has been very dangerous,” said Olivia Troye, a co-director of the Republican Accountability Project. The El Paso native served as a top national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
“I’m a Texas Republican. I grew up in Texas. I love Texas,” she said. “These people have shown repeatedly they’re unfit for office.”
Cruz and Gohmert’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.
Neither appears to be at immediate electoral risk. Both have denied responsibility for the violence.
Gohmert, a former trial judge in Tyler, coasted to a ninth term last fall with a 73-27% margin. Cruz won’t face reelection until 2024, though he may run for president again instead. Blowback since the riot appears to have hobbled that ambition but he hasn’t set it aside.
Across Texas, 16 billboards target Cruz. Five are in the Dallas area: off I-30 east of downtown, along Stemmons Freeway near Oak Lawn Ave., and off highways in Arlington, Grand Prairie and Carrollton. The rest are in Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
Nine other outspoken Trump allies in the House have billboards in their districts, too, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has promoted conspiracy theories about school shootings and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They’ll be up through at least the end of February.
Similar billboards in Missouri target Sen. Josh Hawley. He and Cruz were the most ardent Senate champions of blocking Congress from ratifying Biden’s electoral victory on Jan. 6.
The GOP group will run TV ads against the targeted lawmakers, too, showing protesters echoing their rhetoric.
Trump “didn’t do it alone….It took this entire group in the Republican Party to convince such a large population of the voters that this election was fraudulent,” Troye said.
Hours after the mob swarmed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Democrats accused Cruz of abetting sedition by amplifying Trump’s false claims — long after courts and state elections officials in both parties had debunked the lies.
Cruz led a group of 11 GOP senators who objected when Congress reviewed President Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Two days after the riot, Biden likened the Texas Republican to Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, for spreading Trump’s “big lie” that the election had been stolen. Cruz condemned the “vicious partisan rhetoric.”
Texas Democrats have also demanded Cruz resign.Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman who nearly ousted Cruz in 2018, called him “a seditionist with blood on your hands.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Cruz told The Dallas Morning News on Inauguration Day.
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the New York democratic socialist, asserted last week that Cruz “almost had me murdered” by instigating the riot.
Marauders beat police officers. Some carried zip ties that could have been used to take hostages, or chanted death threats to Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Rep. Chip Roy, an Austin Republican who served as Cruz’s first Senate chief of staff, wrote Pelosi demanding an apology from Ocasio-Cortez for the “scurrilous charge.”
Seven Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint accusing Cruz of lending legitimacy to the mob’s cause.
Sen. John Cornyn defended him for raising concerns he viewed as legitimate.
Some Republicans have distanced themselves, though.
The chair of Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, Chad Sweet, publicly denounced him after the riot for helping Trump in his “relentless assault on our Democracy.”
Cruz calls the impeachment of Trump for inciting insurrection “petty and vindictive” and has vowed to support acquittal. The trial starts next Monday.
“Ted Cruz wants to move on,” Troye said, but “you can’t have unity if you don’t get held accountable.”
Cruz has insisted that he wasn’t trying to nullify Biden’s victory. He tied his objections to a demand for a 10-day delay and an emergency inquiry, which amounted to a fishing expedition for evidence that had not surfaced.
Scores of courts had already ruled out widespread fraud.
“All of these lawsuits had either been dismissed or proven to be inaccurate,” Troye noted. “Facts matter.”
As for Gohmert, the anti-Trump GOP group cites the lawsuit he filed asking a federal judge in Tyler to declare that Pence had the authority to throw out electoral votes. Trump had pressured Pence privately and publicly to do just that.
But Pence and the U.S. Department of Justice argued that he had no such power. Vice presidents preside over the counting of electoral votes in a ceremonial capacity.
“There was no legal basis for it,” Troye said. “When you’re doing that, you’re undermining a fundamental part of our democracy. You are directly complicit by lying to the American people.”
The billboards are part of a $50 million campaign aimed at punishing Trump allies who peddled the stolen election narrative, and at protecting the relative handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in the House, or have spoken out against him in the Senate.
A video from the group includes snippets of Cruz and others declaring “fraud” and somewhat longer sound bites from others, including one of Gohmert saying “you’ve got to go to the streets and be…violent.”
That was from an interview with the rightwing Newsmax channel after the court threw out his Pence lawsuit.
If such rhetoric had no impact, said Troye, why did the rioters insist it was their patriotic duty to storm the Capitol?
“When you say things like that,” she said, “people walk away with the impression that they need to take action, that it is their duty to take action because they’re defending an election that was stolen.”