Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas faced calls for his resignation Wednesday as Texas Democrats said his leading role in efforts to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory empowered the pro-Donald Trump rioters who breached the Capitol and disrupted the certification process.
"He has conducted himself shamelessly, and I think he has done this because he believes it's the only way, the only chance that he has to win the Republican nomination for president," Joaquin Castro said from the Capitol in a virtual interview with The Texas Tribune on Wednesday.
Congress convened Wednesday to formally certify the November election results, which have been called safe and secure by state governments and by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Trump for months has falsely insisted that he won the election - and has turned to Cruz to make his case.
Here are his full remarks verbatim on the Senate floor moments before the riot occurred.
"A bit more recognition that we are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis. Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe the election that just occurred, quote, was rigged. You may not agree with that assessment, but it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half of the country. I would note it is not just Republicans who believe that. Thirty-one percent of independents agree with that statement. Seventeen percent of Democrats believe the election was rigged.
Even if you do not share that conviction, it is the responsibility, I believe, of this office, to acknowledge that is a profound threat to this country and the legitimacy of any administrations that will come in the future. I want to take a moment to speak to my Democratic colleagues. I understand. Your guy is winning right now. 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. 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. And I believe there is a better way. The leaders just spoke about setting aside the election. Let me be clear, I am not arguing for setting aside the results of this election. All of us are faced with two choices, both of which are lousy. One choice is vote against the objection. And tens of millions of Americans will see a vote against the objection as a statement that voter fraud doesn't matter, isn't real, and shouldn't be taken seriously."
WATCH: What happened before the riots? Ted Cruz's remarks on the Senate floor
On Wednesday, Cruz led GOP lawmakers' dispute to certify Arizona's electoral votes. Trump encouraged his supporters to attend rallies in Washington on Wednesday and gave a speech again falsely claiming he'd been reelected before throngs of his backers later breached security and entered the Capitol, where police fatally shot a woman, according to The Washington Post.
Cruz quickly denounced the rioters' actions.
"Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW," Cruz wrote on Twitter, adding that violence is "ALWAYS wrong" and that "those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support."
But in Cruz's hometown of Houston, leaders were not happy with him. Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote on Twitter that, "Texans should hold Sen. Ted Cruz accountable for this fiasco."
Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo echoed that sentiment.
"Shame on you @tedcruz, @GOPLeader, and all who fed the false narrative about our election, which has led to what we are witnessing in our Nation's Capitol," Acevedo wrote on Twitter. "You fanned the flames of mistrust and history will hold you accountable for the ensuing chaos. Outrageous!"
The state's Democratic party says it is calling on Cruz's resignation for "acting in bad faith and subsequently inciting treasonous and seditious acts among conspiracy theorists and domestic terrorists."
Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
"The American people have spoken, and Joe Biden will be the next president. That is how democracy works. Countless election challenges by Trump and his allies have failed. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike have agreed that our democracy must come before any party, and the United States Congress will soon take the next step of formally ratifying the will of the American people and certifying the election results."
Hinojosa said the events at Capitol Hill were a shock but not a surprise and that Cruz's actions "have undermined our democracy, inspired treasonous, seditious acts, and brought shame to Texas. The tragic results of his actions will reverberate for generations. By leading the objection to the Electoral College certification, all the while knowing the devastating consequences, he has demonstrated he is not fit to serve in the U.S. Senate."
The senator's office declined to answer questions about calls for Cruz's resignation.
As the pandemonium persisted throughout the afternoon in Washington, Cruz's campaign sent out fundraising text and email messages to his supporters.
"I'm leading the fight to reject electors from key states unless there is an emergency audit of the election results," the message read. "Will you stand with me?"
An aide to Cruz said the messages were sent "from a firm" and not approved by Cruz to be sent.
"In no way shape or form would he ever have approved this to go out right now," the aide said in a statement. "He is dismayed by what's happening in the Capitol and called on those storming the Capitol to stop the violence."
Left-leaning group Progress Texas also urged Cruz to drop his challenge of the Electoral College vote Wednesday.
"Cruz's act of political theater has brought domestic terrorism to our nation's capitol, which is why he needs to drop the challenge immediately," executive director Ed Espinoza said in a statement.
Early Thursday morning, Cruz released a statement on the Electoral College certification process, which you can read below.
"The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system. The Department of Justice should vigorously prosecute everyone who was involved in these brazen acts of violence. I thank the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and all other law enforcement agencies who responded to restore peace.
"Now, we must come together and put this anger and division behind us. We must stand side-by-side as Americans. We must continue to defend our Constitution and the rule of law.
"That's why my colleagues and I called for an electoral commission to give Americans confidence in this past election and in elections going forward. Millions of Americans who have peacefully expressed their deep concerns regarding election integrity deserve to have their voices heard. It was the right thing to do. I very much wish Congress had not set aside these concerns, but I respect the position each of my colleagues took. Debate in the two houses of Congress is the proper way to resolve our political differences, not through violent attacks.
"Now, Congress must fulfill our constitutional responsibility to complete the Electoral College certification process. We must, and I am confident we will, have a peaceful and orderly transition of power, pursuant to the Constitution."
Additional reporting by Mitchell Ferman of the Texas Tribune.
Juan Pablo Garnham and Kate McGee contributed reporting.