Who is Josh Hawley?

Who is Josh Hawley?
Source: Tom Williams, Reuters
Having so firmly hitched his wagon to Trump, it remains to be seen what will now happen to Hawley, once a rising star in the Republican Party.

When President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20, 2021, there will remain many unanswered questions about the future of the Republican Party and the form it will take. Some members of the party will want to distance themselves from Trump, while others who have seen their fortunes rise in the wake of his presidency are likely to continue embracing “Trumpism.”

For the last few years, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley looked poised to lead this latter faction of pro-Trump Republicans. The events of recent weeks, specifically the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, has dampened Hawley’s prospects, with even former allies turning on the young senator.

Hawley is among the Republicans who have pushed the unfounded claim that President-elect Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from Trump. The dissemination of this baseless conspiracy theory has been cited as the reason for the attack on the Capitol. Trump has already been impeached a second time for his alleged role in the attack, but Hawley is also facing calls for his removal for his part in it.

Having so firmly hitched his wagon to Trump, it remains to be seen what will now happen to Hawley, once a rising star in the Republican Party.

Josh Hawley’s early life

Joshua David Hawley was born in Springdale, Arkansas in 1979 but grew up in Lexington, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. His father, Ronald, was a banker, while his mother, Virginia, worked as a teacher.

After finishing high school, Hawley attended Stanford University, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in history in 2002. He then transferred to Yale Law School to complete a law degree. Following his 2006 graduation, he served as a law clerk for US Appeals Court Judge Michael W. McConnell and then for Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice John Roberts.

Hawley finished his clerkship with Roberts in 2008 and joined the law firm Hogan & Hartson. He served in private practice for three years before switching to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on protecting religious liberty.

Hawley’s work with Becket included being part of the team that successfully defended Hobby Lobby, a private crafts store chain, which had objected to the government mandate to provide health insurance to its employees. The case, which hinged on the company’s religious objections to being forced to provide coverage for contraceptives, was hailed as a major victory for religious groups.

In 2011, Hawley moved back to Missouri to become a constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri. Hawley is married to Erin Morrow, who also teaches at the University of Missouri. The two have three children together.

Josh Hawley enters politics

Upon moving back to Missouri, Hawley says he was approached by Republican Party officials who asked him to run to be Missouri’s attorney general, but he didn’t take up the offer until 2016.

In the race for Missouri attorney general, Hawley campaigned by saying that he was “a constitutional lawyer who wants to make a difference.” He also explained that he was impressed by state attorneys general who “had been the most effective resisters of Obama’s agenda.”

Despite using his campaign for attorney general to rail against “career politicians” who only sought office to further their careers, Hawley’s time as attorney general was brief. In October 2017, 10 months after taking office, Hawley announced that he was running for the Senate, saying, “We have to do all we can to win a better future for our country.”

During his 2018 Senate campaign, The New York Times described Hawley’s time as attorney general as “turbulent,” explaining that he had “a chaotic tenure as attorney general that has been costly for state taxpayers. Judges have criticized the office over its slow pace of discovery, and Mr. Hawley’s staff had to renege on a settlement in a high-profile civil case.”

Regardless of the bad press, Hawley successfully defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who had held the seat since 2007. Hawley was supported by Trump during the campaign and his victory was one of the few bright spots for Republicans in a year that saw Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives.

In Hawley’s short time as a senator, he has proved himself to be a strong Trump loyalist. He voted with Trump 86% during his first two years in office, including being only one of 13 senators who did not vote to overturn Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The January 6 coup attempt

Since President-elect Biden won the 2020 election in November, Trump has baselessly insisted that election fraud was rampant and that he was the actual winner of the election. While Trump and his lawyers have failed to provide any evidence of this claim, there have been a substantial number of Republicans, including Hawley, who have supported this narrative.

On January 6, both chambers of Congress met to certify the electoral college vote, the final step in the process to officially declare Biden the winner of the election. On the same day, Trump supporters gathered at a “Save America” rally in Washington, DC to protest what they believed was a stolen election.

Following the rally, at which Trump spoke, some in the crowd marched to the US Capitol and, using force, broke into the building where members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence were meeting. Some of those who attacked the Capitol were armed and, during a violent clash with law enforcement, five people were killed, including a police officer.

Prior to the attack, Hawley was photographed passing by the rally and holding up a fist of support to the crowd. During Congress’s certification of the electoral college, generally an uncontroversial, ceremonial procedure, Hawley was one of only a handful of Republican senators who objected to certifying Arizona and Pennsylvania’s votes, claiming mail-in votes in the states didn’t count.

The certification of the votes was interrupted by the mob’s attack on the Capitol. Yet, when Congressmembers returned to finish the process, Hawley still voted to reject both states’ votes. Biden’s victory was nonetheless certified, with only seven senators (all Republicans) voting against certifying Pennsylvania’s votes and only six senators voting against Arizona’s certification.

Hawley has faced considerable backlash since January 6. A book deal he had with Simon & Schuster was canceled, while many people have called for his expulsion from Congress, including his hometown newspaper, The Kansas City Star.

His critics include fellow Republicans, such as Hawley’s one-time mentor, former Senator Jon Danforth, who has said, “Supporting Josh … was the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”

So far, Hawley has made no indication that he plans to step down, but the political cost for remaining so steadfastly loyal to Trump could be disastrous for him in the long-term.

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