Josh Hawley's 2024 Ambitions Dented by Capitol Hill Mob, GOP Revolt Against Trump

Senator Josh Hawley aligned with President Donald Trump in alleged efforts to position himself as a leader of the resistance for his 2024 ambitions, but the Missouri Republican's plan backfired on Wednesday as the GOP revolted against the president after protesters stormed Capitol Hill.

Hawley, a first-term Republican and a possible candidate for the 2024 GOP primary, demonstrated fealty to Trump and his agenda in the aftermath of President-elect Joe Biden's win in the 2020 election. Last month, he aggressively backed Trump's demand for $2,000 stimulus checks and echoed his allegation that Facebook and Twitter had interfered with the election to benefit Biden.

On December 30, Hawley broke ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and party leadership to become the first senator to promise he would formally oppose Congress certifying the Electoral College results on January 6.

As a former Missouri attorney general, Hawley likely knew not to waste his time with patently futile election challenges—at least 50 courts have already rejected claims of widespread voter fraud. To secure a blessing from Trump should he not seek the 2024 Republican nomination himself, Hawley sought another route: to have Congress "investigate allegations of voter fraud."

As he readied to contest the election results on Wednesday, Hawley was photographed greeting protesters, holding a fist to the crowd in the east side of the Capitol. "An image that will live in infamy," tweeted CNN analyst Susan Glasser.

From our Francis Chung, Sen. Josh Hawley greeting protesters in the east side of the Capitol before riots began. pic.twitter.com/I8DjBCDuoP

— Manuel Quinones (@ManuelQ) January 6, 2021

Then the riot began.

By afternoon, the pro-Trump protests in Washington D.C. had erupted into chaos as armed supporters stormed the Capitol building after violently clashing with authorities, forcing lawmakers to be evacuated and leaving one woman dead from a shooting in the halls.

David Plouffe, former President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, joined a growing movement of people blaming Hawley and Senator Ted Cruz for lending credence to Trump's effort to reverse his election defeat. "Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley will never lead the country but they will go down in infamy for leading, instigating and enabling domestic terrorists," Plouffe said.

GOP lawmakers immediately began condemning the violence, riots and demanding that Trump disperse the mob, with one calling it "absolute banana republic crap" and another denouncing the protests as "anarchy." Others blamed Trump for inciting the violence, with Congressman Chip Roy of Texas saying "it's the last thing you'll do that matters as president."

Some Republicans who supported efforts to overturn the election reversed course. "People have taken this too far," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News.

Before rioters disrupted the congressional debate, McConnell delivered a strong indictment of Trump and those who have sought to overturn the election.

"Public doubt alone cannot justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence. The Constitution gives us in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids," he said. "The voters, the courts, the states have all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever."

Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, Hawley's predecessor, said it felt like "McConnell is staring directly at Hawley during this whole speech."

After the mayhem, Hawley denounced the protesters that he had raised his fist to just hours prior. "The violence must end, those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted, and Congress must get back to work and finish its job," he said.

On the Senate floor that evening, after Congress reconvened, Hawley indicated that he still intended to challenge the election results, pointing to the violent mob as proof of the importance of the Republican effort.

"I hope this body will not miss the opportunity to take affirmative action to address the concerns of so millions of Americans," he said. "That's why I submit to my colleagues that what we're doing here tonight is actually very important, because for those who have concerns about the integrity of our elections, this is the appropriate means."

"This is the appropriate means, this is the lawful place where those objects and concerns should be heard."

Hawley's remarks came shortly after at leave five Republicans—including Senators Steve Daines, James Lankford, Kelly Loeffler and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers—said they would no longer reject the Electoral College certification.

Newsweek reached out to Hawley's office for comment.

This story has been updated with additional remarks from Senator Josh Hawley.

Josh Hawley sits alone on Capitol Hill
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri sits in the House Chamber in Capitol Hill on January 06, 2021. Win McNamee/Getty