On Sunday, The New Yorker published a video of Trump supporters breaking into the Capitol and Senate chamber.
The footage is stunning not only because it shows just how easy it was for neo-Nazis to waltz into the “sacredest place” (as one police officer put it while pleading with attackers to leave the Senate chamber) but also because it shows exactly what was going through the heads of rioters as they stormed the Capitol building.
The video shows Trump supporters roaming the halls of Congress, banging on doors and chanting pro-America slogans.
“You’re afraid of Antifa? Well, guess what? America showed up!” a rioter shouts.
“Where the fuck is Nancy,” another screams as the mob enters an evacuated Senate chamber.
Once inside, the rioters are clueless as to what the plan is. They shuffle about, rummage through papers, sit on the vice president’s chair, and argue about what to do and how to do it.
Eventually, several rioters stumble upon the desk of Sen. Ted Cruz and crowd around it like eager schoolchildren, leading to this tragically dumb conversation:
“This, here look, here look, his objection! He was gonna sell us out all along.”
“Look, [reading from document] objection to counting the electoral votes of the state of Arizona.”
“Can I get a photo of that?”
“Wait, no, that’s a good thing.”
“No that’s okay, all right, all right. Look, I’m pissed, I’m pissed —”
“He’s with us, he’s with us.”
Shortly after, a separate pair of rioters are also filmed shuffling through Cruz’s desk.
“This is all good,” one of them says reading the paperwork on the desk.
“I think Ted Cruz would want us to do this,” the other reasons aloud.
The 12-minute video, filmed by veteran war correspondent and The New Yorker writer Luke Mogelson, is worth watching in its entirety. But the two moments where Cruz’s name is mentioned stick out because they serve as living proof of something the junior senator has dismissed again and again in the aftermath of the Capital attack; that he and the rioters shared the common goal of disrupting the transfer of power from President Trump to President-elect Biden.
Cruz has vehemently denied this in statements and tweets made in the wake of the attack and amid calls for his resignation from Democrats, protesters outside his office, and a growing list of newspapers.
He also denied it in a speech he made on the Senate floor moments before the attack.
Citing a poll that showed 39 percent of Americans believed the election was rigged, Cruz argued that the only thing that could be done to restore confidence in American democracy was to create an electoral commission and conduct a 10-day emergency audit of the results.
This was a totally normal thing to do, Cruz explained while deceptively citing a 145-year-old example from the Reconstruction era in which neither presidential candidate had a clear electoral majority.
“Your guy is winning right now,” Cruz told Democrats. “If Democrats vote as a block, Joe Biden will almost certainly be certified as the next president of the United States.”
“I want to speak to the Republicans who are considering voting against these objections,” he continued. “I understand your concerns, but I urge you to pause and think, what does it say to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged if we vote? Not even to consider the claims of illegality and fraud in this election.”
His legal sleight-of-hand ignored the glaring fact that Trump had expended his remaining political capital in disputing the results, and that dangerous lie was the only reason so many Americans believed these claims of illegality and fraud in the first place.
If Cruz had joined judges, election officials, and most of the Senate in reaffirming reality — in reaffirming the fact that there was no widespread voter fraud on election day or that voting machines or mail ballots were not rigged — if he had cajoled his base and fellow Texas Republicans, or maybe even the president, into just going quietly into the night, there’s a version of history where January 6th happens without much fanfare.
Instead, Cruz played the role of Trump’s last-minute lawyer in the Senate, something the rioters quickly understood upon reading the first sentence of a document they found on his desk.