By Arlene Zarembka
On Wednesday, we saw the appalling sight of Sen. Josh Hawley — a licensed Missouri attorney, and former attorney general of Missouri — raising his clenched fist salute in support of the mob of insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol. The mob proceeded to smash doors and windows to gain access to the Capitol while the Electoral College votes were being certified by Vice President Mike Pence and Congress. It took hours for the police to disperse the insurrectionists, who overpowered the inadequate police presence. Five people, including a police officer, were killed. Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin called the mob violence “a coup attempt to try and overthrow our democracy.”
When the counting of the electoral ballots resumed late that night, Hawley challenged the ballot results for the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ticket from Pennsylvania. In doing so, Hawley refused to accept the decisions of judges (some appointed by President Donald Trump himself) who found no merit to the many lawsuits filed by Trump alleging that the election was rigged or stolen. Hawley thereby gave further aid and comfort to the violent insurrectionists.
Biden and Harris won the 2020 election fair and square, full stop. It is worth noting that Hawley has not claimed that there are any questions about the validity of the election of down-ballot Republicans who were declared the winners of their elections in Pennsylvania or Arizona, the other state whose results his faction challenged. Those candidates were on the same ballot as Trump, but only the votes counted for Biden were, somehow, uniquely questionable. How convenient.
Hawley has lost his right to be a U.S. senator, or to hold any other federal or state office, pursuant to Article XIV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or hold any office under the United States, or under any State who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof.” Hawley encouraged and gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists. He should not be seated when the Senate reconvenes.
As a licensed Missouri attorney, Hawley also is subject to the rules and ethical standards of the Missouri Bar Association. All Missouri lawyers make the following oath when they are admitted to practice law in Missouri: “I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Missouri, that I will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement , and that I will always conduct myself in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct."
In the case of elections, the voters become the judge and jury of which candidate should be elected. Hawley has repeated the false claims that the loser, Trump (who lost both the popular and Electoral College vote) was somehow the actual winner. Hawley has tried to give himself cover for these false claims, by claiming that he is only stating the views of his constituents who believe the election was stolen from Trump.
The Rules of Professional Conduct state that Missouri attorneys who engage in conduct that involves dishonesty or deceit are subject to discipline. Hawley has violated his oath as a licensed Missouri attorney by insisting on challenging the Electoral College vote count, deliberately ignoring the fact that judges across the country and across the ideological spectrum rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, disregarding statements from the Department of Homeland Security and from former Attorney General William Barr that the elections were clean and fair, and repeating false conspiracy claims about a stolen election, with no proof.
Hawley’s support of the insurrectionists who violently stormed the Capitol is an attack on our democracy and Constitution. It is grounds for disbarment of Hawley as a lawyer in the state of Missouri. The Missouri Bar should immediately start proceedings to disbar Hawley from the practice of law in the state. No Missouri attorney, including one who is a U.S. senator, should be allowed to engage in deceit and incite attacks on our elected officials and institutions without repercussions. Failure to disbar Hawley would send the message that Hawley and other attorneys can incite attacks on our democratic institutions with impunity.
Arlene Zarembka is a St. Louis attorney and a 1974 graduate of St. Louis University Law School.