Madison Cawthorn Needs to Go

Wed., Sept. 1: Welcome to a post-Roe America + Ted Budd takes a hit + welcome to Durham’s election season + the ABC Commission is very offended


1. Time to Go, Madison

Last week, Madison Cawthorn—at 25, the youngest member of Congress—grabbed headlines in the N&O and elsewhere for affixing his comic-sands signature to a letter “formally” asking the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Joe Biden, a “mentally unstable individual” in “mental decline,” from office after a terrorist attack killed 13 U.S. service members in Kabul.

Two things of note:

  • Cawthorn sent the latter to Vice President “Kamela” Harris, and no, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. It also contains a very long quote from Treasure Island for some reason.

  • His “formal” request carries roughly the same weight as me climbing to the top of the PNC building and FORMALLY REQUESTING free Taco Tuesdays forever—i.e., none.

Cawthorn is a backbench junior congressman of no legislative or foreign policy import who has spent his year and a half in the spotlight humiliating himself:

Cawthorn was elected in Mark Meadows’s gerrymandered WNC district by being the most aggressively pro-MAGA Republican around. This weekend, he became a test case for how much radicalization the party will tolerate.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) on Sunday falsely suggested that elections in the United States are “rigged” and said there will be “bloodshed” if the country’s electoral system continues on its current path.

Cawthorn, a freshman lawmaker and pro-Trump star of the far right, made the remarks during an event at the Macon County Republican Party headquarters in Franklin, N.C., on Sunday night.

“The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” Cawthorn told the crowd, according to a video of the event posted by the county party on its Facebook page and circulated on Twitter by a Democratic congressional staffer. “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.” …

“I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American. 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 said …

Cawthorn told the crowd, “I will remove Joe Biden from office, and then, when Kamala Harris inevitably screws up, we will take them down, one at a time.” …

Cawthorn also used the terms “political prisoners” and “political hostages” to describe those who arrested in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

At one point, a member of the crowd asked Cawthorn, “When are you going to call us to Washington again?”

In response, Cawthorn appeared to suggest that plans for a gathering were in the works, although he did not provide details.

“That—we are actively working on that one,” he said. “I don’t have an answer to that one right yet. But we are actively working on this. We have a few plans in motion that I can’t make public right now.” (WaPo)

So, look. Here’s a member of the United States Congress:

  • a) lying to his fellow partisans about a “stolen” and “rigged” election, which he believes happened because his preferred candidate lost;

  • b) threatening to kill his fellow Americans if another election is “stolen”—i.e., his preferred candidate loses again;

  • c) pledging to “remove” the president from office, something he has no power to do, then remove the VP for “screwing up,” something he also has no power to do (and which isn’t an impeachable offense), then “take them down”;

  • d) calling the violent insurrections who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 “political prisoners,” which they aren’t, and spoke of trying to “bust them out,” which is a felony;

  • e) saying, “we don’t actually know where all the political prisoners are,” which is both false and absurd (a majority of the 600 or so arrested in connection to the riot have been released on bail);

  • e) telling them plans are underway for another Jan. 6-type event.

Cawthorn can spin it however he wants—and boy, is he trying—but this is dangerous. He’s gotta go. There are two ways that could happen:

  • 1) Congress could expel him, though it’s unlikely enough Republicans will vote to do so.

  • 2) Cawthorn could be pressured to resign.

His district being what it is—Asheville surrounded by ruby-red rural counties—defeating Cawthorn in November will be difficult for any Democrat. So long as he’s besties with Trump, beating him in a Republican primary will likewise be tough. Still, you’d think this garbage would merit at least the censure the NCGOP gave Richard Burr for voting to convict Trump after the Jan. 6 riot.

  • Credit where due—here’s Senator Phil Berger’s legal counsel:

2. Welcome to the Show, Ted Budd

If Rep. Ted Budd—Donald Trump’s choice to replace Richard Burr—thought he’d get an easy ride to next year’s primary, he was mistaken.

But as Budd has told his narrative in a state where agriculture is the largest business, he omitted a key chapter. He made no mention of his role in his family’s calamitous involvement in a company called AgriBioTech, which ended in a bankruptcy case that cost farmers millions of dollars in losses.

Court documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that a trustee for farmers and other creditors alleged that his father, Richard Budd, improperly transferred millions of dollars in assets to his family, including Ted Budd. That occurred before Richard Budd and a family company faced a $15 million judgment in the case. …

“We got screwed and there was not a freaking thing we could do about it. There was no way to fight multimillionaires,” said Scott Scheuerman, a Wyoming farmer who had urged fellow growers to send their crop to the company, which had bought up dozens of processing plants. “We were the little guy. We were just a number, and they could care less about us.”

Ted Budd’s untold role in the case illustrates the risk that Trump, still the most powerful figure in the GOP, has taken in impulsively backing a low-profile candidate who is loyal to him and has spoken dismissively about the Jan. 6 insurrection. By elevating Budd into a top primary contender in a key midterm race, Trump has created extraordinarily high stakes for his party.

Trump’s choice of Budd—who won a 17-person GOP primary with 20% of the vote in 2016—came after Budd championed Trump’s Big Lie. Budd’s opponent, former Rep. Mark Walker, quickly issued a statement. (Former governor Pat McCrory is also running.)

RELATED: Politico noted that Trumpsters are running to replace old-school legislators in Republican Senate primaries—including in North Carolina.

The three top candidates to succeed Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina have all denounced his vote to convict Trump in his last impeachment trial. In Pennsylvania, the four leading candidates to succeed Sen. Pat Toomey—who, like Burr, was formally rebuked by the state party for his impeachment vote—have embraced Trump’s calls for an “audit” of the state’s presidential election results, to varying degrees. …

“Trump has reshaped the Republican Party. We’re now a blue-collar party. We're an America first party,” said Michael Whatley, the chair of the North Carolina GOP. “It’s a different party than it was when [retiring Missouri Sen.] Roy Blunt and Richard Burr first got elected. And I don't think the party is going back. It’s tough on China, protect the border, fight for the Second Amendment, fight for life. That has been an enormously popular agenda with the base.”

3. The Durham Election Begins

Tonight, the People’s Alliance—Durham’s most influential PAC—will vote on its endorsements in the upcoming municipal elections. Some educated guesses about the outcome:

  • Javiera Caballero for mayor

  • Marion Johnson in Ward 1

  • ??? in Ward 2

  • AJ Williams in Ward 3

These candidates have all (I think?) been endorsed by PA faves Mayor Steve Schewel, council members Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece, and Commissioner Nida Allam, as well as the Durham Association of Educators.

  • In addition, PA co-president Millicent Rogers left to run Williams’s campaign. (Note for Durham politicos: Williams is the son of Thomasi McDonald, a former reporter at The News & Observer who is now a staff writer at INDY Week.)

  • In Ward 2, the PA might (perhaps reluctantly) endorse incumbent Mark-Anthony Middleton, though he’s not facing what you’d call serious competition.

The rival Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has already released its endorsements, and it’s nearly the opposite of the PA’s probable slate.

  • Judge Elaine O’Neal for mayor. (Former Mayor Bill Bell also endorsed O’Neal.)

  • Incumbent DeDreana Freeman in Ward 1

  • Middleton in Ward 2

  • Leonardo Williams in Ward 3

In a somewhat muted message on Facebook last night, Middleton posted about his support for O’Neal.

There are in fact champions on the Durham City Council for just about all of the issues that are sacred to us as a progressive city. But alas, I deeply believe that our city is at an inflection point and at this time requires not an alternative voice, but an additional voice to our assembled cast. Elaine O'Neal through her decades of Durham relationships and organic intellect can simply speak to a swath of our city in a way that quite honestly none of us currently serving on the council can. I rank myself first on the list of inability.

In May, when a divided Durham County Board of Commissioners fired county manager Wendell Davis, I wrote about the city’s fracturing political establishment.

The sharp, vitriolic leadership struggle that culminated in Davis’ removal has shaken North Carolina’s most liberal county and split its racially diverse political coalition. 

For some progressive activists, Davis represented timidity, fiscal conservatism, and underhanded tactics. … But for others, Davis’ removal is yet another sign that Durham’s talk of racial equity is performative: a thriving city charging leftward with Black Lives Matter signs lining manicured lawns in gentrifying neighborhoods. …

Durham is the face of a new liberal vision for North Carolina. But its political establishment is threatening to tear itself apart. 

As Durham’s municipal elections near, the same battle lines are being drawn.

4. ABC Bans Beer Ad Containing “$%*#”

In March, I wrote about the state’s byzantine liquor bureaucracy enforcing weird rules just because it can. Courtesy of the Triangle Business Journal (subscription required), here’s another example for that file:

A Maryland-based craft brewery is taking legal action against the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission over what's described as "bad taste" regarding a beer label. …

Flying Dog Brewery submitted the artwork for its winter ale, which depicts a "cartoon character" by a campfire with an icy background. A portion of the label reads, “So stack that firewood, crack open a Freezin’ Season, and tell season affective disorder to go $%*# itself, Yeah, it’s cold outside. But inside, this warming winter ale always keeps the bonfire burning.”

The commission claimed the image was in “bad taste,” according to lawsuit, adding the image ... “is seen as inappropriate to many here.”

This is the offensive image.

Yes, that.

5. A Supreme Power Grab and a Post-Roe America

While everyone was focused on Afghanistan, the Supreme Court has done some pretty major stuff lately. And it’s not just what it’s done that has some observers concerned, but how it’s done it—using the so-called shadow docket, emergency orders issued without oral arguments or full briefings.

  • As expected, the Court struck down the Biden administration’s second attempt at an eviction moratorium.

  • Unexpectedly—and reversing its tendencies from the Trump era—the Court upheld a district court ruling ordering the Biden administration to reinstate the so-called Remain in Mexico policy, a decision that allowed a single federal judge to radically rewrite immigration policy.

  • (Relatedly, the Court also agreed to hear a case that would effectively make it impossible for detained immigrants to challenge their detentions while awaiting hearings before the Board of Immigration Appeals, which can take years.)

  • And at 1 a.m. this morning, the Court let Texas destroy Roe v. Wade.

In May, the state’s Republican lawmakers passed a law known as SB 8 that outlaws abortion after six weeks. But SB 8 is unique: It empowers private citizens, not government officials, to enforce it. The measure allows any random stranger to bring a lawsuit in state court against any individual who “aids or abets” an abortion in Texas after six weeks. Anyone in the country may file such a suit against abortion “abettors” in any state court within Texas. If the plaintiff wins, they collect a minimum of $10,000 plus attorneys’ fees. And if they win a case against an abortion provider, the court must shut down that clinic. If the provider somehow prevails, they collect nothing, not even attorneys’ fees.

Texas Republicans devised this convoluted system in order to prevent federal courts from blocking the law—and so far, they’ve succeeded: On Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals abruptly canceled a trial judge’s hearing on SB 8’s constitutionality, effectively allowing the law to take effect in two days, on Sept. 1. This aggressive intervention forced abortion providers to do what seems almost unthinkable: Ask the U.S. Supreme Court—the same court that agreed to hear a direct challenge to Roe v Wade only a few months back—for an injunction in an emergency filing on Monday. (Slate)

The law is ridiculous on several fronts, not least of which is that it allows people who have suffered no damages to claim standing to sue, then gives them access to women’s personal medical records. But it gave SCOTUS an out.

If you’re asking yourself why the Supreme Court would possibly allow the state of Texas to overturn decades of precedent following Roe v. Wade before the court itself decides the issue, the answer seems simple: Whyever wouldn’t they? The current court’s conservative majority always planned to leave the husk of Roe in place, while allowing the states to strangle the fundamentals of the ruling. … If the six conservative justices were seeking to avoid writing an opinion announcing that states can ban abortion once again, this case hands them a sterling opportunity: They can allow states to ban abortion without writing an opinion at all.

All they had to do was nothing.

Here is where the Supreme Court has deemed fit to intervene in an “emergency.”

On 41 occasions, the Trump Justice Department asked the court to put on hold an adverse lower-court ruling for the duration of the government’s appeal. In 28 of those cases, the Supreme Court granted the relief, at least in part. But on Tuesday, the court refused the Biden administration’s very first request for such relief—declining to freeze a district court injunction that requires the administration to restart the shuttered “Remain in Mexico” program. (WaPo)


The Trust Respect Access Coalition is holding a “performance protest” of Texas’s law outside of the General Assembly at 1 p.m. today. Details here.

  • The event may go virtual if the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’m told.