As former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial begins, political groups are amplifying calls for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to leave office.
This week, a liberal organization is releasing an ad that’s set to air in Texas and Washington. Caitlin Lang, spokesperson for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said much of the blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection should be laid at Cruz’s feet.
In the 30-second spot, violent scenes from the Capitol riot flash onscreen. Then, two men are shown rifling through a lawmaker’s documents.
One says, “I think Cruz would want us to do this.”
Another agrees: “Yeah — absolutely.”
Cruz then appears in frame, speaking to supporters at a Georgia rally four days before the insurrection.
“You are fighting for my freedoms, and I am grateful to be shoulder to shoulder with you,” he says.
At the end of the ad, white text appears on a red background declaring: “He incited insurrection. Voted against democracy. EXPEL TED CRUZ.”
Critics accuse Cruz of fanning the flames that eventually engulfed the U.S. Capitol in violence on Jan. 6. For weeks, the senator pushed to have the results of the presidential election overturned as he echoed Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
Cruz was also the ringleader of the so-called “sedition caucus,” a crew of Republican senators who objected to certifying President Joe Biden’s win — even after a far-right mob invaded the Capitol building, resulting in numerous deaths.
Regardless, many conservatives stand by Cruz, with a recent Economist/YouGov poll showing 61% of Republicans still think of him favorably. But others are joining Democrats in demanding Cruz’s resignation, including a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.
In addition to the ad, PCCC has placed billboards in downtown Dallas and Tyler — where Cruz has offices — calling for the senator's expulsion. Lang hopes they will force him to face consequences like U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last week was stripped of committee assignments for promoting outlandish conspiracy theories.
“We really wanted to make sure that whenever Ted Cruz went home, he couldn’t escape accountability for what he did and … that he just cannot escape the reckoning that we hope is coming,” Lang said.
Cruz’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Other anti-Cruz groups are also raising billboards, including the liberal Mad Dog PAC and the conservative anti-Trump group the Republican Accountability Project. The latter organization has started a $1 million billboard campaign calling for certain GOP lawmakers, including Cruz and East Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, to resign following the insurrection.
Co-director Olivia Troye, who also served as Pence’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, told the Observer she hopes the ads will remind Texans of what happened Jan. 6.
“Sometimes we have a short-term memory; we move on very quickly as Americans,” she said. “But we can’t forget that that was a really dark day for our country.”
RAP is also airing a series of ads petitioning senators to vote for Trump’s conviction this week, including one specifically geared toward Texas Sen. John Cornyn. In addition to those spots, which will air on Fox & Friends and on all the major markets in Texas, Troye said the group has created a D.C.-based mobile billboard demanding Trump’s conviction.
One of RAP’s previous ads depicted Trump's enablers lying about the election, including Cruz and Gohmert. The spots aired in those lawmakers’ districts.
Gohmert also played a leading role in the 2020 election upheaval by filing a far-fetched lawsuit against Pence. After a federal judge dismissed it, Gohmert said the move amounted to a call for violence in the streets.
Following the insurrection, the House voted to punish lawmakers who skipped security screening measures when entering the chamber, according to The Washington Post. Friday, Gohmert did just that and was slapped with a $5,000 fine; each subsequent offense will incur an additional $10,000.
Gohmert's office did not respond to the Observer’s request for comment, but in a statement Friday night, the politician said he had gone out to use the restroom and didn’t know he had to be rescreened.
“Unlike in the movie The Godfather, there are no toilets with tanks where one could hide a gun, so my reentry onto the House floor should have been a non-issue,” he said in the statement.
It’s unclear whether Cruz or Gohmert will ever risk losing their seats when they’re up for reelection. The latter seems particularly impervious; in 2020, he trounced his Democratic challenger by more than 45 percentage points. On the other hand, Cruz may be more vulnerable, Lang said; he faced a stiff challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.
Still, Troye said the GOP is facing a choice during Trump’s second impeachment: Will it be the party of conspiracy theories and lies, or will lawmakers do what’s right?
“I think people deserve better: They deserve better elected officials,” she said. “And I think it’s time for these senators to really take a stand.”
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