Fellow Republican rips freshman GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn over "insane" threat of “bloodshed”

Cawthorn suggested breaking Capitol rioters out of jail and hinted at "plans" to call Trump supporters to D.C.

By Igor Derysh
Published August 31, 2021 2:19PM (EDT)
U.S. Rep Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., on Sunday warned that there could be "bloodshed" in future elections while echoing former President Donald Trump's false claims about "rigged" votes.

The far-right freshman congressman repeated the widely debunked narrative about election fraud during a speech to the Macon County Republican Party despite federal intelligence warnings that such rhetoric could spark domestic terror attacks like the January 6 Capitol riot.

"Anybody who tells you that Joe Biden was dutifully elected is lying to you," Cawthorn declared in a video the party posted on its Facebook page before deleting it on Tuesday following blowback.

"The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn't matter if our votes don't count," Cawthorn said. "Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place — and it's bloodshed."

The comments drew immediate condemnation, even from Cawthorn's fellow Republicans.

"This is insane. Based on a total lie," tweeted Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump after the Capitol riot. "This must stop."


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Democrats roundly said that Cawthorn's rhetoric must be condemned.

"Law and order is the foundation of democracy. When elected officials ignore facts and advocate for committing crimes, that foundation cracks," tweeted Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. "Rep. Cawthorn's rhetoric is a threat to all of us, and it's time for real patriots to condemn it and marginalize those who propagate it."

Despite millions spent to investigate election fraud claims pushed by Trump, there has been no evidence of any widespread fraud that could have influenced the election outcome. Attorneys who pushed the claims in court have been sanctioned and face disbarment.

Cawthorn even suggested that he would be willing to take up arms against the government to defend "election security."

"As much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American," he said. "And the way that we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states."

Cawthorn's speech comes just months after a joint intelligence assessment warned that "narratives of fraud in the recent general election" and "the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol" would "almost certainly" spark domestic terror attacks.

Luke Ball, a spokesman for Cawthorn, told CNN that the congressman was "CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions."

"He fears others would erroneously choose that route and strongly states that election integrity issues should be resolved peacefully and never through violence," Ball said.

The remarks are a turnaround from Cawthorn's comments in January amid backlash to his vote to object to the certification of President Joe Biden's win after the Capitol riot.

"I think I would say that the election was not fraudulent," he said at the time. "You know, the Constitution allowed for us to be able to push back as much as we could and I did that to the amount of the constitutional limits that I had at my disposal. So now I would say that Joseph R. Biden is our president."

Ball insisted to CNN that Cawthorn's "views on the 2020 election have remained consistent."

"He raised objections to electors from several states in January because he had severe concerns about how the elections were conducted and how laws were changed last-minute to favor Democrats," he said.

Cawthorn, who spoke at Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6, also called detained rioters "political hostages" and "political prisoners."

"The big problem is, we don't actually know where all the political prisoners are," he said. "So if we were to actually be able to go and try and bust them out ― and let me tell you, the reason why they're taking these political prisoners is because they're trying to make an example. 'Cause they don't want to see the mass protests going on in Washington."

An audience member asked Cawthorn "when are you going to call us to Washington again?"

"We are actively working on that one," Cawthorn replied. "We have a few plans in motion I can't make public right now, but this is something that we're working on."

Ball told HuffPost that Cawthorn is "not actively working on any 'protest' or 'plan' to bring people to Washington" and insisted that the comment was related to the earlier statement about "political prisoners." Ball said Cawthorn was calling for "due process" and "was not advocating for any form of illegal action."

Trump supporters are planning a rally in support of the arrested rioters, who they call "political prisoners," in Washington D.C. next month. The D.C. Metropolitan Police is planning a "full activation" ahead of the protest.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., came under fire on Tuesday for failing to push back on his party members' election lies, which have also been echoed by far-right lawmakers like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

"There is no bottom for Kevin McCarthy and his big tent caucus where insurrectionists, anti-Semites, and alleged sex traffickers can all find a home," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement. "In any other world, Madison Cawthorn's abhorrent remarks would be unanimously condemned and a party leader with an actual spine would hold Cawthorn accountable for suggesting bloodshed. Madison Cawthorn keeps proving he's an embarrassment to North Carolinians and it raises the question of how long Kevin McCarthy will continue to let his caucus be run by extremists."

Former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., tweeted, "every Republican Member of Congress should be asked if they agree with [Cawthorn's] call for another January 6th."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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Aggregate Capitol Riot Donald Trump Kevin Mccarthy Madison Cawthorn Politics