Editor’s note, Jan. 7, 9:47 a.m.: Following the emergency recess of the joint session of Congress necessitated by a mob’s attack on the Capitol complex, senators and representatives reconvened around 8 p.m. to continue the process of confirming the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden. In the legislators’ subsequent deliberations, objections were raised to the certification of votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania. While N.C. senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis (both Republicans) voted against the objections, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who represents Western North Carolina, joined 138 of his Republican colleagues (including six from North Carolina) in voting in favor. The motions failed, and Biden’s victory was certified by Congress.
The full transcript of Cawthorn’s brief remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after midnight on Jan. 7 is printed below.
Even before being sworn in as Western North Carolina’s congressional representative on Jan. 3, Madison Cawthorn had made national news for one of his first plans upon taking office. In a Jan. 1 video that repeated multiple debunked allegations of election fraud, the Hendersonville Republican said he would object to the ratification by Congress of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over incumbent President Donald Trump.
When Congress met in joint session on Jan. 6, Cawthorn was among the more than 50 representatives and eight senators, all Republicans, who issued a formal challenge to certifying results from Arizona. But his action was soon overshadowed by other supporters of the president: a rioting crowd that clashed with Capitol police, broke into legislative chambers and forced lawmakers to shelter in place.
After police placed the Capitol on lockdown, Cawthorn tweeted for an end to the violence. “We must let Congress work and uphold law and order. We are the party that backs the blue,” he wrote at 3:40 p.m. “I ask you to back the blue now and let the objections continue in accordance with the Constitution.”
Earlier in the day, however, Cawthorn had addressed thousands of Trump supporters at a “Stop the Steal” rally hosted by the president near the White House. During his speech, the freshman representative called colleagues who would not challenge the election results “cowards.” In Trump’s own remarks at the event, the president said, “We’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople. The ones that aren’t any good.”
Several of Cawthorn’s previous tweets in recent days have also employed explicitly combative language. “The future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few,” he wrote on Jan. 4. “Let’s show Washington that our backbones are made of steel and titanium. It’s time to fight.”
“I will put the Republican establishment on my shoulders and drag them kicking and screaming back to the Constitution,” Cawthorn added on Jan. 5.
Asked what Cawthorn had to say regarding the day’s events to his WNC constituents, spokesperson Micah Bock directed Xpress to the representative’s Twitter feed, “where he’s condemned the violence and called for peace.”
Meanwhile, Biden delivered remarks from the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., characterizing the riots as “assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business” and called for Trump to demand that the lawlessness stop.
“This is not dissent,” Biden said. “It is disorder. It is chaos. It borders on sedition.”
In a video posted to Twitter shortly after Biden’s speech, Trump called for the mob to “go home now” as a curfew was set to go into effect in Washington at 6 p.m. The president continued on to claim without evidence that the election was stolen and called the rioters “very special.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 7:
I want a new generation of Americans to be radicals. To be radicals for freedom and for liberty, but not radicals for violence.
I am bitterly disappointed by the protests that happened yesterday. The actions of a violent few were cowardly and pathetic, and I am not afraid to call it out. The Republican party is the party of limited government. It is the big-tent party. It’s not the party of destruction.
Madame Speaker, the oath I took just days ago demands that I speak out in defense, not of one president or another, but defense of a hallowed document that has safeguarded this republic for over 200 years. The Constitution grants power solely to state legislatures to determine how elections are carried out. When other officials who are not vested with constitutional authority usurp their role and grind the Constitution under their heel, I must object.
Our nation is a nation of resilience. At Valley Forge, George Washington prayed for a republic to be formed from the ashes of a monarchy. At Gettysburg, Americans gave their lives to defend a very simple idea: That the American democracy that had been earned with the blood of their forefathers would not perish due to internal divisions. Then on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, American servicemen gave their lives to defend this nation’s freedom from fascism.
And what unites every generation of Americans is the idea that those who submit themselves to the authority of government ought to have a voice in that same government. We are Americans here in this chamber and in this country. But what does it really mean to be an American? It means believing in the rule of law. It means speaking up in defense of our founding principles and in defense of the Constitution. Being an American means that you are proud of your country, but that you never beat your chest. And being an American means that sometimes you must stand along while others sit. Now, obviously, I can’t stand, but trust me, if I could stand, I would stand in defense of our Constitution today.