Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina is one of the most unrepentant insurrectionists (informal definition) in existence. Indeed, throughout the year from the horrible day, Cawthorn has said things that seem to contemplate a more violent future if Democrats were to win the presidency or the senate again. Now, according to the New York Times, a group is using a Civil War provision of the 14th Amendment in an attempt to keep Cawthorn off the ballot from serving again as an “insurrectionist,” leading Cawthorn to retain James Bopp Jr., one of the most prominent conservative campaign lawyers in the nation as his attorney.
As the New York Times writes:
This case revolves around the little-known third section of the 14th Amendment, adopted during Reconstruction to punish members of the Confederacy who were streaming back to Washington to reclaim their elective offices — and infuriating unionist Republicans.
That section declares that “no person shall” hold “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath” to “support the Constitution,” had then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Yes, the provision was written to apply to confederate senators who served as colonels or in the Jefferson Davis confederate administration, but it seems to fit Madison Cawthorn pretty comfortably. Below comes from The Citizen Times, an Asheville N.C. site:
He repeats his claims that the American election system is “rigged” and that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, who, he says, is still America’s legitimate president, and that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper actually lost, despite defeating Dan Forest by nearly 250,000 votes. He says rioters arrested in the fatal attack on Congress on Jan. 6 are “political prisoners,” and discusses plans to “try and bust them out.” He tells the crowd “we are actively working on” plans for another similar protest in Washington. “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes your duty,” he says.
It would seem as though some of his own statements are self-proving that he’s an insurrectionist, thus the lawsuit to declare him ineligible. This is particularly dangerous to Cawthorn in North Carolina, where, once someone puts out a sufficient amount of evidence to establish a prima facie case that a person is ineligible to run, the burden shifts to the candidate to prove he is eligible, and that may clip up Cawthorn. From the New York Times again:
‘“I don’t think we can have those persons who have engaged in acts of insurrection elected to office and serving in office in violation of their constitutional duties and oath,” said John R. Wallace, one of the lawyers on the case and a campaign finance and election law expert in Raleigh, N.C. He added, “It should not be difficult to prove you are not an insurrectionist. It only seems to be difficult for Madison Cawthorn.”
A person who calls people in jail for attacking police officers on January 6th “political prisoners” seems to fit the definition of an insurrectionist as close to perfect as one can come without taking up arms himself. There are, however, First Amendment concerns that Cawthorn will surely raise in his defense. It will not be a clear-cut case.
As the Times points out, the case could have huge ramifications upon the usual suspects, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mo Brooks (Who is running for the Senate) and Paul Gosar. It may seem as though time is on Cawthorn’s sign, it would take a judgment to declare him ineligible, but courts do understand that certain cases require fast decisions and this case could progress up the system.
Despite the fact that the matter involves the federal Constitution, states determine who is eligible for their elections and thus the case would be filed in North Carolina, where the opposition group seeks to depose Cawthorn on statements he has made and even meetings he may have intended.
The fact that it’s a state court case means that it won’t have a binding impact on Arizona, Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, and other possible states, but courts do look at other states rulings as influential or persuasive if they believe the decision is well-reasoned.
The situation is very much worth watching. So far, only the “window breakers” have suffered for their actions on January 6th. It is time to hold those who whipped the crowd into a frenzy and then took advantage of lingering anger to account.
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows increasingly thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
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