NC Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who spoke at rally before Capitol riot, calls violence 'sickening'

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Cawthorn outraged at riots but won't support impeachment
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"We've slid back our movement years and years. We've lost years of progress. It's a sad state of affairs," Rep. Madison Cawthorn said.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina's congressional delegation on Monday predictably took different sides on the new Article of Impeachment submitted by Democrats to Congress on Monday that accuses President Donald Trump of "incitement of insurrection."

The article is drawing support from more than 200 Democratic lawmakers, including the longtime congresswoman from Charlotte, Alma Adams.

"This is just so egregious what happened," Adams told ABC11. "Members of Congress, our staff, we all could have been killed. I would hope that we never have another person like Donald Trump to try to run for office and to serve."

The effort to impeach comes just a year after Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress, two Articles of Impeachment which passed the House last January. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was the only Republican in either chamber to vote alongside Democrats incensed at the President's foreign policy conduct with Ukraine.

"I believe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been just as embarrassed as I have been, but they've been too embarrassed to say they're embarrassed," Adams said.

Indeed, North Carolina Republicans have been outspoken - at least in public - in support of President Trump and his claims that he won the 2020 election, despite some saying otherwise in private.

Madison Cawthorn, the freshman GOP congressman from outside Asheville, was among those who spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol.

"American Patriotism will never be silenced! Honored to speak out in defense of the Constitution!" he tweeted from the stage that day.

In an interview Monday, Cawthorn expressed outrage and regret about what transpired but said he won't support impeachment.

"I think we all have a lesson to learn," Cawthorn said. "As the Bible says, 'A rudder can move a ship, your tongue can affect great change.' I was telling that crowd, 'I'm going to fight for you. Your voice is being heard. I'm going to affect change on your behalf.'"

Cawthorn, just 25 years old, is the youngest member of Congress and has quickly gained national prominence as a potential future leader of the party.

"We've slid back our movement years and years. We've lost years of progress. It's a sad state of affairs," Cawthorn said. "The Republican Party is leaderless right now. It's very fluid trying to figure out what it is. My heart hurts for where the country is at just to see people with American flags and Trump flags, people who normally I associate with, storming our Capitol. It's sickening and infuriating."

Though he thinks the majority of Wednesday's crowd was "peaceful," Cawthorn still blasted the violent mob as "weak-minded and pathetic" and that "they lacked the self-discipline to check their own and anger and rage."

As for Trump, whom Cawthorn has supported, the Congressman said he doesn't think Trump's words would meet a legal standard of incitement, though he admits he's unsure of the standards for impeachment's clause of high crimes and misdemeanors.

"I think when the president said we're going to march down to the Capitol and I'm going to march with you that was a major mistake. He never should've directed that crowd toward the Capitol," Cawthorn said. "The bad outcome was destined at that point."

The apparent mea culpa from the congressman is significant in many ways, not least of which the contrast from Cawthorn's own statements over the past few months, including a lively appearance at the conservative Turning Point USA's Student Action Summit.

"This new generation of Republicans is going to redefine what it means to be a Republican. We are going to be the party that is known to fight," Cawthorn told a cheering crowd on Dec. 21

"Call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them," he added. "Say, 'if you don't support election integrity I'm coming after you, Madison Cawthorn's coming after you, everybody's coming after you.'"

Asked about those remarks, Cawthorn said he regretted their implications and said they were taken out of context. He promised to build a legacy "to fight with ideas and words."'

Cawthorn "needs to be held accountable for his seditious behavior and for the consequences resulting from said behavior," a group of Democratic officials wrote in a letter asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to expel him.

Moving forward, Cawthorn said he's now looking forward to finding common ground with Democrats and the incoming Biden administration on many issues, including expanding rural access to broadband and infrastructure.

"We should be second to none in the world on having the most modernized and efficient and high-tech country on the planet."