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    Madison Cawthorn Challenge Raises the Question: Who Is an ‘Insurrectionist’?

    The challenge to Representative Madison Cawthorn’s re-election bid could set a precedent to challenge other Republicans who encouraged the Jan. 6 attack.WASHINGTON — A group of lawyers is working to disqualify from the ballot a right-wing House Republican who cheered on the Jan. 6 rioters unless he can prove he is not an “insurrectionist,” disqualified by the Constitution from holding office, in a case with implications for other officeholders and potentially former President Donald J. Trump.The novel challenge to the re-election bid of Representative Madison Cawthorn, one of the House’s brashest supporters of Mr. Trump and the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, could set a precedent to challenge other Republicans who swore to uphold the Constitution, then encouraged the attack.While the House committee investigating the assault on the Capitol has so far been unsuccessful in its effort to force key members of Congress to cooperate with the inquiry, the North Carolina case has already prompted a legal discussion — one that is likely to land in court — about what constitutes an insurrection, and who is an insurrectionist.And for the first time, a lawmaker who embraced the rioters may have to answer for his actions in a court of law.“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.”Cases challenging the legitimacy of a candidate before election boards usually hinge on a candidate’s age, legal residency, place of birth or citizenship status, or the legitimacy of signatures in a candidacy petition.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.”Mr. Cawthorn, 26, who is in his first term in Congress, has denounced the case as an egregious misreading of the 14th Amendment, but he has retained James Bopp Jr., one of the most prominent conservative campaign lawyers in the country, as counsel.Mr. Bopp, in an interview, declared the matter “the most frivolous case I’ve ever seen,” but allowed that what he called an “unethical” exploitation of North Carolina law by “competent” lawyers could pose a real threat to Mr. Cawthorn — and by extension, to others labeled “insurrectionists” by liberal lawyers.“This is the real threat to our democracy,” he said. “Just by bringing the complaint, they might jeopardize a member of Congress running for re-election.”“They have multiple targets,” he added. “It just so happens that Madison Cawthorn is the tip of the spear.”That is because North Carolina’s election statute offers challengers a remarkably low bar to question a candidate’s constitutional qualifications for office. Once someone establishes a “reasonable suspicion or belief” that a candidate is not qualified, the burden shifts to the officeseeker to prove otherwise.If Mr. Cawthorn is labeled an “insurrectionist,” that could have broader ramifications. Other Republican House members, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, face similar accusations, but their state’s election laws present higher hurdles for challenges to their candidate qualifications. If one of their colleagues is disqualified for his role in encouraging the rioters, those hurdles might become easier to clear.The lawyers challenging Mr. Cawthorn’s eligibility are using an amendment last invoked in 1920, when Representative Victor L. Berger, an Austrian-American socialist, was denied his seat representing Wisconsin after criticizing American involvement in World War I.If nothing else, the lawyers, including two former justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court, want to depose Mr. Cawthorn as part of discovery to question his actions before, during and after the attack on the Capitol.“There is, of course, much that we don’t know, and the statute allows discovery by deposition and the production of records,” Mr. Wallace said.There is much that is known. Whether it makes Mr. Cawthorn an “insurrectionist” would have to be determined by North Carolina’s Board of Elections, or more likely, by the state’s courts, where the board might punt the matter.Weeks after the 2020 election, Mr. Cawthorn told a conservative gathering to “call your congressman” to protest the results, adding, “you can lightly threaten them.” He promoted the “Save America” rally behind the White House on Jan. 6, writing on Twitter, “the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few,” then adding “It’s time to fight.” At the rally, he riled the crowd from the stage with talk of election “fraud.”He later called those jailed for storming the Capitol “political hostages” and “political prisoners” that he would like to “bust” out of prison.A mob rushing the Capitol on Jan. 6 were met with tear gas.Kenny Holston for The New York Times“The Second Amendment was not written so that we can go hunting or shoot sporting clays. The Second Amendment was written so that we can fight against tyranny,” he would later say in Franklin, N.C. He added, “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.”Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 17The House investigation. More

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    Justice Dept. Is Reviewing Role of Fake Trump Electors, Top Official Says

    Lisa O. Monaco, the deputy attorney general, told CNN that she could not “say anything more on ongoing investigations.”WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating the fake slates of electors that falsely declared Donald J. Trump the victor of the 2020 election in seven swing states that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had in fact won, a top agency official said on Tuesday.“Our prosecutors are looking at those, and I can’t say anything more on ongoing investigations,” Lisa O. Monaco, the deputy attorney general, said in an interview with CNN.The false certificates appear to have been part of an effort by Mr. Trump’s allies to reverse his defeat in the presidential election. Even as election officials in the seven contested states sent official lists of electors who had voted for Mr. Biden to the Electoral College, the fake slates claimed Mr. Trump was the winner in an apparent bid to subvert the election outcome.Lawmakers, state officials and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot have asked the Justice Department to look into the role played by those fake electors and the documents they submitted to the National Archives on Dec. 14, 2020.In some cases, top Republican Party officials in those seven states signed the false documents, according to copies posted online last March by American Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group.“The phony electors were part of the plan to create chaos on Jan. 6, as a pretext for a contingent election,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the committee.“The fake electoral slates were an effort to create the illusion of contested state results,” Mr. Raskin said. That, he added, would have given Mike Pence, who as vice president presided over Congress’s count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, “a pretext for unilateral rejection of electors.”In Michigan, Dana Nessel, the attorney general, gave federal prosecutors information from her yearlong investigation into the matter. She has said that she believes there is enough evidence to charge 16 Republicans in her state with submitting the fake certificates and falsely claiming that they were official electors for the state.And Hector Balderas Jr., the attorney general of New Mexico, and a local prosecutor in Wisconsin also asked the Justice Department to review the matter.If investigators determine that Mr. Trump’s allies created the fake slates to improperly influence the election, they could in theory be charged with falsifying voting documents, mail fraud or even a conspiracy to defraud the United States.It is unclear whether the Republican Party officials and others who submitted the false documents did so on their own or at the behest of the Trump campaign.“The people who pretended to be official electors in states that were won by Biden were undoubtedly guilty of fraud on the Constitution and on the democracy,” Mr. Raskin said. “It’s a trickier question whether they are guilty of either common-law fraud, state statutory fraud, federal mail fraud or some other offense.”Luke Broadwater More

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    What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee

    Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the House panel has received material that it hopes could flesh out how the attack on the Capitol came about.The National Archives has turned over to the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6 a large batch of documents that former President Donald J. Trump had sought to keep out of the panel’s hands, citing executive privilege.The committee has yet to make the documents public or disclose how far along it is in scrutinizing them for any new information about the roles played by Mr. Trump and his inner circle in the effort to delay certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.But in court filings, Mr. Trump, his legal team and the archives identified the documents that he was seeking to shield through claims of executive privilege, an argument that the Supreme Court rejected last week.It remains unclear how valuable the documents — at least 770 pages — will be to the investigation. But here is a list of them as identified in the court filings, what is known about them and how they might fit into the larger narrative being assembled by the committee:Proposed talking points for Mr. Trump’s press secretary and documents related to allegations of voter fraud (629 pages)Even before Election Day, Republicans and the Trump White House were pushing the notion — not backed by any evidence — that there could be widespread election fraud because of changes states enacted in response to the pandemic that made it easier for people to vote.Mr. Trump refused to concede on election night, saying publicly: “This is a fraud on the American public.” In the weeks that followed, the White House — through Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary at the time — amplified Mr. Trump’s messaging from the briefing room and on television and social media.The materials could help the committee document the extent and intensity of the effort inside the White House to promote the baseless claims, along with more details about which members of the administration were most involved in the false claims.Presidential activity calendars and a handwritten note concerning Jan. 6 (11 pages)In a typical White House, a president’s calendar can provide an intimate picture of who the president meets with and the topics he may be discussing. Though Mr. Trump had a far less regimented schedule, there were still some meetings and events on his calendar, and aides kept track of where he was and what he was planning to do. The committee has indicated that it is especially interested in any communications that Mr. Trump had around Jan. 6 with top aides like Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, or with Vice President Mike Pence. A detailed calendar or notes could also help shed light on Mr. Trump’s activities as the riot unfolded on Capitol Hill.Mr. Trump’s supporters before his rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.Jason Andrew for The New York TimesA draft of Mr. Trump’s speech for the “Save America” rally that preceded the mob attack (10 pages)On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump and his allies spoke at a rally on the Ellipse before his supporters marched more than a mile to the Capitol. The draft speech — which Mr. Trump’s longtime aide, Stephen Miller, helped write — would show whether Mr. Trump’s incendiary language that encouraged the protesters was ad-libbed by him or whether it was included by his speechwriters, who may have been coordinating the president’s messaging with others. In his book, Mr. Meadows claimed Mr. Trump had ad-libbed his remarks telling the crowd to march on the Capitol.A note from Mr. Meadows about briefings and calls about the certification of the election and related issues (2 pages)In the days leading up to Jan. 6, there was a flurry of meetings in the Oval Office. Among the most dramatic was one on Jan. 4, when Mr. Trump had a lawyer named John Eastman — who had written a memo essentially saying that the vice president had immense powers to decide who won the election — make the argument directly to Mr. Pence that he could delay the certification of the election on Jan. 6. (Mr. Pence later rejected the advice.) On Jan. 2, three of Mr. Trump’s advisers — Rudolph W. Giuliani, Peter Navarro and Mr. Eastman — held a conference call with about 300 state lawmakers about election fraud. On Jan. 4, Phil Waldron, a former U.S. Army colonel who rose to prominence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle after the election, said members of his team briefed some senators on foreign interference in the election. Mr. Waldron said he personally gave the same briefing the next day to members of the House.Details of meetings like those, and the planning for them, could help the committee assess whether Mr. Trump’s efforts justify a criminal referral to the Justice Department on a charge like obstructing an official proceeding in Congress.A draft executive order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages)A range of outside advisers were pushing for Mr. Trump to sign executive orders to help him block or slow certification of the election. Among the most audacious was one that said Mr. Trump could use the Defense Department to seize voting machines based on false claims that there had been foreign interference in the election. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and a lawyer advising him, Sidney Powell, were urging Mr. Trump to take this action. A copy of a draft executive order about seizing election machines was posted on Politico’s website on Friday.But that memo is three pages, and the National Archives described a memo that is four pages. There is another memo, mentioned in a recent disclosure to the committee by the Trump ally Bernard Kerik, that could also fit this description. It was withheld by Mr. Kerik under the theory of executive privilege but was described in a log of documents that Mr. Kerik refused to turn over as, “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.”Handwritten notes from the files of Mr. Meadows (3 pages)As chief of staff, Mr. Meadows served both as a top aide and as a conduit for outside advisers, including members of Congress, to contact Mr. Trump and visit him at the White House. Mr. Meadows has provided investigators with hundreds of pages of documents that he had on his personal phone but has refused to sit for questioning, leading the committee to ask the Justice Department to prosecute him. His notes could potentially shed light on what Mr. Trump was hearing and saying at key moments.Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 17The House investigation. More

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    For Many Who Marched, Jan. 6 Was Only the Beginning

    To many of those who attended the Trump rally but who never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.PHOENIX — There were moments when Paul Davis questioned his decision to join the crowd that marched on the United States Capitol last January. When he was publicly identified and fired from his job as a lawyer. When his fiancée walked out.But then something shifted. Instead of lingering as an indelible stain, Jan. 6 became a galvanizing new beginning for Mr. Davis. He started his own law practice as a “lawyer for patriots” representing anti-vaccine workers. He began attending local conservative meetings around his hometown, Frisco, Texas. As the national horror over the Capitol attack calcified into another fault line of bitter division, Mr. Davis said his status as a Jan. 6 attendee had become “a badge of honor” with fellow conservatives.“It definitely activated me more,” said Mr. Davis, who posted a video of himself in front of a line of police officers outside the Capitol but said he did not enter the building and was expressing his constitutional rights to protest. He has not been charged with any crime from that day. “It gave me street cred.”The post-mortems and prosecutions that followed that infamous day have focused largely on the violent core of the mob. But a larger group has received far less attention: the thousands who traveled to Washington at the behest of Mr. Trump to protest the results of a democratic election, the vast majority of whom did not set foot in the Capitol and have not been charged with any crime — who simply went home.For these Donald Trump supporters, the next chapter of Jan. 6 is not the ashes of a disgraced insurrection, but an amorphous new movement fueled by grievances against vaccines and President Biden, and a deepened devotion to his predecessor’s lies about a stolen election.In the year since the attack, many have plunged into new fights and new conspiracy theories sown in the bloody chaos of that day. They have organized efforts to raise money for the people charged in the Capitol attack, casting them as political prisoners. Some are speaking at conservative rallies. Others are running for office.Interviews with a dozen people who were in the large mass of marchers show that the worst attack on American democracy in generations has mutated into an emblem of resistance. Those interviewed are just a fraction of the thousands who attended the rally, but their reflections present a troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election.Many Jan. 6 attendees have shifted their focus to what they see as a new, urgent threat: Covid-19 vaccine mandates and what they call efforts by Democratic politicians to control their bodies. They cite Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandates as justification for their efforts to block his presidency.Some bridled at Trump’s recent, full-throated endorsements of the vaccine and wondered whether he was still on their side.“A lot of people in the MAGA Patriot community are like, ‘What is up with Trump?’” Mr. Davis, the Texas lawyer, said. “With most of us, the vaccines are anathema.”In interviews, some who attended the Capitol protests gave credence to a new set of falsehoods promoted by Mr. Trump and conservative media figures and politicians that minimize the attack, or blame the violence falsely on left-wing infiltrators. And a few believe the insurrection did not go far enough.“Most everybody thinks we ought to have went with guns, and I kind of agree with that myself,” said Oren Orr, 32, a landscaper from Robbinsville, N.C., who had rented a car with his wife to get to the Capitol last year. “I think we ought to have went armed, and took it back. That is what I believe.”Mr. Orr added that he was not planning to do anything, only pray. Last year, he said he brought a baton and Taser to Washington but did not get them out. Some supporters bridled at Mr. Trump’s recent, full-throated endorsements of the vaccine and wondered whether he was still on their side.Stephen Goldstein for The New York TimesMore than a year later, the day may not define their lives, but the sentiment that drove them there has given them new purpose. Despite multiple reviews showing the 2020 elections were run fairly, they are adamant that the voting process is rigged. They feel the news media and Democrats are trying to divide the country.The ralliers were largely white, conservative men and women who have formed the bedrock of the Trump movement since 2016. Some describe themselves as self-styled patriots, some openly carrying rifles and handguns. Many invoke the name of Jesus and say they believe they are fighting a holy war to preserve a Christian nation.The people who went to Washington for Jan. 6 are in some ways an isolated cohort. But they are also part of a larger segment of the public that may distance itself from the day’s violence but share some of its beliefs. A question now is the extent to which they represent a greater movement.A national survey led by Robert Pape, the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago, concluded that about 47 million American adults, or one in every five, agreed with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, about 21 million, or 9 percent of American adults, shared the belief that animated many of those who went beyond marching and invaded the Capitol, Mr. Pape said: that the use of force was justified to restore Mr. Trump to the presidency.“They are combustible material, like an amount of dry brushwood that could be set off during wildfire season by a lightning strike or by a spark,” he said.Some downplay Jan. 6 as a largely peaceful expression of their right to protest, comparing the Capitol attack with the 2020 racial-justice protests that erupted after George Floyd’s murder. They complain about a double standard, saying that the news media glossed over arson and looting after those protests but fixated on the violence on Jan. 6.They have rallied around the 700 people facing criminal charges in connection to the attack, calling them political prisoners.Earlier this month in Phoenix, a few dozen conservatives met to commemorate the anniversary Jan. 6 as counterprogramming to the solemn ceremonies taking place in Washington. They prayed and sang “Amazing Grace” and broadcast a phone call from the mother of Jacob Chansley, an Arizona man whose painted face and Viking helmet transformed him into an emblem of the riots. Mr. Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges.A counterprotester in Phoenix, right, attempted to disturb a vigil commemorating the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Antranik Tavitian/The RepublicThen it was Jeff Zink’s turn at the microphone. Mr. Zink is one of several people who attended the Capitol protests and who are running for public office. Some won state legislature seats or local council positions in last November’s elections. Now, others have their eyes on the midterms.Mr. Zink is making an uphill run for Congress as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic swath of Phoenix and said he will fight for Jan. 6 defendants — a group that includes his 32-year-old son, Ryan.Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 17The House investigation. More

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    Texas Man Charged With Threatening to Kill Georgia Election Officials

    A man accused of using Craigslist to call for the assassination of election officials is the first to be charged by the Justice Department’s task force on election threats.WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday charged a Texas man with publicly calling for the assassination of Georgia’s election officials on the day before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.The case is the first brought by the department’s Election Threats Task Force, an agency created last summer to address threats against elections and election workers. Federal prosecutors accused the man, Chad Christopher Stark, 54, of Leander, Texas, of calling for “Georgia Patriots” to “put a bullet” in a Georgia election official the indictment refers to as Official A.Mr. Stark, according to the three-page indictment, made the threat in a post on Craigslist, the online message board, while then-President Donald J. Trump and his allies were putting public pressure on Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who certified Mr. Trump’s defeat in Georgia to Joseph R. Biden Jr.“Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors,” Mr. Stark wrote, according to the indictment. “It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]. Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges.”Mr. Stark was charged with one count of communicating interstate threats.The Craigslist posting came at a moment of intense political pressure against election officials in battleground states. Mr. Trump had phoned Mr. Raffensperger on Jan. 2 last year and demanded that he “find” nearly 12,000 votes to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory in Georgia. The posting was published on Jan. 5, a day before a Trump-inspired crowd attacked the United States Capitol in an effort to block Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the next president.On Thursday, a district attorney in Atlanta asked a judge to convene a special grand jury to help a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. If the investigation proceeds, legal experts say that the former president’s potential criminal exposure could include charges of racketeering or conspiracy to commit election fraud.Mr. Raffensperger on Friday did not confirm if he was among the election officials targeted.“I strongly condemn threats against election workers and those who volunteer in elections,” he said in a statement. “These are the people who make our democracy work.”Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said on Friday that the task force is reviewing over 850 reports of threats to election officials and has opened dozens of criminal investigations.During the 2020 election cycle and in its immediate aftermath, election workers “came under unprecedented verbal assault for doing nothing more than their jobs,” Mr. Polite told reporters Friday. “As the attorney general and deputy attorney general have both emphasized previously: We will not tolerate the intimidation of those who safeguard our electoral system.”The task force, created last June by the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, developed a system to log and track all reported threats to election workers and F.B.I. agents, and federal prosecutors were trained to take in, assess and investigate the allegations. Mr. Polite said the task force has prioritized finding ways to enhance security for state and local election workers.The Texas case represents the task force’s first indictment and arrest. Mr. Polite declined to elaborate on what Mr. Stark may have planned to do.“The communication here speaks for itself,” Mr. Polite said, referring to Mr. Stark’s Craigslist post, which offered $10,000 and called for “Patriots” to “exterminate these people.”In addition to the two Georgia election officials, Mr. Stark’s Craigslist post also threatened a third Georgia official.Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 17The House investigation. More

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    Does Jan. 6 Disqualify Some Republicans From Re-election?

    Representative Madison Cawthorn has breezily dismissed a candidacy challenge filed by voters in his home state, North Carolina, seeking to bar him from re-election to the House of Representatives based on his role in the events of Jan. 6.The plaintiffs, a spokesman from the pro-Trump Republican’s office said, are “comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment for political gain.”Mr. Cawthorn is being too quick to scoff. The 14th Amendment provision in question, while little known and not employed since 1919, is a close fit for his conduct around Jan. 6 — as well as that of at least a half-dozen Republican colleagues who the organization spearheading the challenge, Free Speech For People, suggests will be next.Passed in the wake of the Civil War to prevent former rebels from serving in Congress, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”The critical point to understand is that Section 3 added a qualification to hold office, one of the very few in the Constitution. The others are that members of the House must be at least 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years and live in the state the individual represents. It is no different in this respect from the qualification that the president be at least 35 and a natural-born citizen.So, if the voter challenge succeeds in establishing that Mr. Cawthorn engaged in “insurrection or rebellion,” he would be as ineligible to serve in Congress as if it were revealed that he is 24 years old. Under North Carolina law, once challengers advance enough evidence to show reasonable suspicion that a candidate is not qualified, the burden shifts to the would-be candidate to demonstrate the contrary.The North Carolina State Board of Elections will create a five-member panel composed of people from counties in the new district in which Mr. Cawthorn intends to run (which is more Republican leaning than his current one). The panel’s decision could be appealed to the entire State Board of Elections, and after that to the state’s court system. The board’s decision will be delayed until after a state court rules on a separate redistricting challenge in North Carolina. But the issue will have to be resolved in time for the state’s primary election, currently set for May, so the normal Trump playbook of stalling until the issue becomes moot is not an option.The key question in the challenge will be whether Mr. Cawthorn’s acts of support for the Jan. 6 uprising rise to the level of engaging in an insurrection against the government.Here is what the first-term congressman did, based on public reports and allegations in the challenge: In advance of the riot at the Capitol, he met with planners of the demonstrations and tweeted that “the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few … It’s time to fight.” He spoke at the pre-attack rally at the Ellipse, near the White House, where he helped work the crowd into frenzy, saying the crowd had “some fight in it” and that the Democrats were trying to silence them. And in the aftermath of the mob violence, he extolled the rioters as “political hostages” and “political prisoners,” and suggested that if he knew where they were incarcerated, he would like to “bust them out.”The constitutional term “insurrection” is less cut-and-dried than, say, whether a candidate is 25 years old. In other contexts, courts have defined it as a usually violent uprising by a group or movement acting for the purpose of overthrowing the legitimately constituted government and seizing its powers. That accurately describes the collective pro-Trump effort to undermine the certification of the November 2020 election.In the hours after the riot, Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, described the attack as a “failed insurrection”; one of President Trump’s own lawyers in the impeachment trial stated that “everyone agrees” there was a “violent insurrection”; and Mr. Cawthorn himself voted for a resolution that described the attackers as “insurrectionists.” He’ll be hard pressed to run from that label now.As for whether Mr. Cawthorn “engaged” in the insurrection, in an 1869 case, the North Carolina Supreme Court interpreted that term in Section 3 to signify “voluntarily aiding the rebellion, by personal service, or by contributions … of anything that was useful or necessary” to it. Even before more facts are developed in the case — including a possible deposition of Mr. Cawthorn — the tweet exhorting demonstrators to fight because the future of the Republic hinges on it seems plainly designed to aid the enterprise.The indictment of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers, and 10 other Jan. 6 participants on seditious conspiracy charges reinforces the notion that the crimes of Jan. 6 were not simply offenses of property or disorder but were attacks against the government itself, the same core idea as with insurrection.If the North Carolina courts rule against him, expect Mr. Cawthorn to make a quick dash to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it has final authority to interpret the federal constitutional term “insurrection.” At that point, a conservative majority that includes three justices appointed by Donald Trump might well sympathize with Mr. Cawthorn.But while it may be rare, the North Carolina voter challenge is no joke. The challengers have a strong case, and Mr. Cawthorn would be foolish to take it lightly.Harry Litman (@harrylitman), a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, teaches constitutional law and national security law at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law and the University of California at San Diego Department of Political Science. He is also host of the podcast Talking Feds.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Sean Hannity Told Trump After Jan. 6: ‘No More Stolen Election Talk’

    The Fox News host Sean Hannity had some blunt advice for President Donald J. Trump on Jan. 7, 2021: “No more stolen election talk.”His guidance did not take. But documents disclosed on Thursday showed in vivid detail just how closely Mr. Hannity had worked with White House aides in a fervent, if brief, effort to persuade Mr. Trump to abandon his false claims about voter fraud after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.One day after the attack, Mr. Hannity sent a text message to Kayleigh McEnany, then the White House press secretary, describing a five-point plan for approaching conversations with the president, according to documents released by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot.After urging Ms. McEnany to avoid discussion of a “stolen election,” Mr. Hannity proffered another talking point to use with Mr. Trump: “Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit …”Mr. Hannity appeared to be referring to the possibilities that Mr. Trump could be impeached, face mass resignations from his staff or be temporarily removed from office by a group of his cabinet secretaries invoking the 25th Amendment.Ms. McEnany replied: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce.”Fox News, where Ms. McEnany is now a commentator and a co-host of a weekday program, declined to comment on Thursday.In public, Mr. Hannity and Ms. McEnany remain lock-step supporters of Mr. Trump and his worldview. But their private exchanges show the level of alarm among even the president’s closest allies after the Jan. 6 riot, as Mr. Trump persisted in his false claims that the election had been stolen from him and his political future appeared deeply precarious.The exchanges were included in a letter sent by the House committee to Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and one of his senior advisers. The committee is seeking Ms. Trump’s cooperation as it tries to piece together a scramble inside the White House to persuade Mr. Trump to denounce the attackers at the Capitol.In another exchange included in the letter, Mr. Hannity urged Ms. McEnany to keep the president away from certain advisers. “Key now. No more crazy people,” Mr. Hannity wrote. Ms. McEnany replied: “Yes 100%.”This month, the House committee asked Mr. Hannity to cooperate and answer questions about his communications with Mr. Trump and his aides in the days surrounding the riot. At the time, the committee disclosed messages in which Mr. Hannity advised Mark Meadows, then the White House chief of staff, on the president’s political future. “He can’t mention the election again. Ever,” Mr. Hannity wrote on Jan. 10, 2021, to Mr. Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.A lawyer for Mr. Hannity, Jay Sekulow, has said the committee’s request to interview Mr. Hannity raises “First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.”Luke Broadwater More

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    What’s Happening on the Left Is No Excuse for What’s Happening on the Right

    American democracy has often confronted hostile forces from outside the United States; rarely has it been under as much of a threat from forces within the nation. The danger arises from illiberalism on the left and the right. Both sides are chipping away at the foundations of the American Republic; each side seems oblivious to its own defects.Again and again, we have heard conservatives argue that even if you believe that Donald Trump is flawed and the MAGA movement is worrisome, the left is much more dangerous. We disagree. Fears about the left’s increasingly authoritarian, radical tendencies are well grounded; but they have blinded many conservatives to the greater danger posed by the right, which we believe is a threat to our constitutional order and therefore to conservatism itself.We come to our view after writing and warning about the illiberal left for much of our careers. One of us wrote a book nearly 30 years ago criticizing those who would limit free thought by restricting free speech; the other has been sounding alarms about left-wing ideology since his days as an official in the Department of Education during the Reagan years.Since then, the left has grown more radical, more aggressive and less tolerant. With the help of social media and influence in academia — and sometimes in newsrooms and corporate H.R. departments — a small number of die-hard progressives (they make up only about 8 percent of the public, according to one recent survey) exert a hugely disproportionate influence on the culture. Progressives are “often imposing illiberal speech norms on schools, companies and cultural institutions,” the liberal journalist Jonathan Chait writes. There have been many examples of squelching arguments that although controversial deserve full and frank airing in a free society. Universities have attempted to kick off their campuses Christian ministries that require their leaders to be Christian, and we have written in these pages about efforts to weaken protections for religious liberty.Structural racism — the perpetuation of de facto discrimination by ingrained social arrangements and assumptions — is a reality in American life. But the hodgepodge of ideas in the bucket that has come to be known as “critical race theory” includes radical claims that deny the enduring value of concepts like equality of opportunity and objectivity and reject “the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy” as “a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.” The most extreme versions of these ideas might not be taught in high schools (yet), but their influence is undoubtedly being felt.The progressive movement, then, is increasingly under the sway of a totalistic, unfalsifiable and revolutionary ideology that rejects fundamental liberal values like pluralism and free inquiry. And conservatives aren’t hallucinating about its influence. Surveys show that 62 percent of Americans and 68 percent of college students are reluctant to share their true political views for fear of negative social consequences. A Cato Institute study found that nearly a third of Americans — across the political spectrum, not just on the right — say they’re worried about losing a job or job opportunities if they express their true political views. Another study suggested that the level of self-censorship in America may be three times what it was during the McCarthy era.The left is not solely responsible for creating these fears, but it has played the most significant role. Yet even granting all that, the threat from the illiberal right is more immediate and more dangerous. If that wasn’t clear before the last presidential election and the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, it should be clear now.Any account of the malignancy of the American right has to begin with Mr. Trump, whose twisted sensibilities continue to define the Republican Party. It was he who attempted what no president had ever tried: overturning an election. He based his effort on a huge campaign of disinformation. Mr. Trump pressured the vice president, governors, secretaries of state, election officials and appointees at the Department of Justice to join him in his efforts. One of his lawyers reportedly proposed a plan to nullify the election. Congress’s Jan. 6 committee will reveal more and possibly worse.The Republican Party, rather than spurning Mr. Trump and his efforts, has embraced them. Around the country, prospective Republican candidates, far from opposing #StopTheSteal lies and conspiracy theories, are running on them in 2022, according to a Washington Post tally. Any prominent Republican today who disputes #StopTheSteal can expect to be targeted by the base, booed at any large gathering of Republicans, censured by party apparatchiks and possibly threatened with physical violence.Dismayingly few Republican leaders stand foursquare against the base’s insistence that any election Mr. Trump and his followers might lose is rigged. The result is that Republicans are shattering faith in the integrity of our elections and abandoning their commitment to the peaceful transfer of power — the minimum commitment required for democracy to work. This is an unforgivable civic sin, but it hardly exhausts the lists of concerns.Many Republicans are now openly hostile to the processes Americans rely on to separate fact from fiction. There’s also the deepening cult of despair that has led some on the right to believe that all means of resistance are appropriate. In fact, catastrophism is quite fashionable on the American right these days. Every election is a “Flight 93” confrontation against an apocalyptic enemy; every effort, no matter how extreme, is justified. That attitude is not merely at odds with reality; it is incompatible with liberal democracy’s foundational requirement that Americans compromise and coexist civilly in order to share the country.Partly as a result, the MAGA movement is drifting toward authoritarianism. The most important media personality on the right, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, released a disingenuous three-part documentary in November suggesting that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a “false flag” operation. He and others in MAGA World, including Mr. Trump, also promote Hungary, which Freedom House said in its 2018 report is “sliding into authoritarian rule,” as a model for the United States. The Republican Party is also drifting ever closer to the open embrace of political violence and martyrdom, not merely excusing but defending actions like Ashli Babbitt’s effort to break into the House’s inner sanctum on Jan. 6 — actions that came within seconds of succeeding.In a recent survey, nearly 40 percent of Republicans said that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” Around the country, Republican officials who defend the election and count votes honestly have been threatened and have needed to leave their homes or live under guard. Josh Mandel, a Republican running for the open Senate seat in Ohio and leading in the polls, said in the aftermath of President Biden’s vaccine mandate: “Do not comply with the tyranny. When the Gestapo show up at your front door, you know what to do.”Intimidating election officials, lying about elections and storming the Capitol are not actions promoted among mainstream Democrats. And while the progressive left undoubtedly has influence in the Democratic Party, if it exercised the near-total dominance that Republicans claim, Joe Biden would not have won the Democratic nomination. Conservatives certainly have their disagreements with President Biden, but he has not defunded the police, attempted to pack the Supreme Court or promoted the Green New Deal or Medicare for All.But assume that your threat assessment is different from ours; that as a conservative Republican you believe the danger to the nation is greater from the far left than from the MAGA right. You should still speak out against what is happening to your movement and your party for two reasons: The sins of the left do not excuse the sins of the right; and what is happening on the right is wrecking authentic conservatism in ways the left never could.In his new book, “We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy,” a Wheaton College historian, Robert Tracy McKenzie, shows that the founders took a deeply conservative view of human nature. They believed that humankind is flawed and fallen, distracted by passions and swayed by parochial interests. Americans, the founders believed, were no exception. Yet they also believed that what John Adams called a “well-ordered Constitution” could go a long way to compensate for human flaws.In classic conservative fashion, they designed the U.S. Constitution, and its attendant institutions and norms, both to constrain us and to help us be our better selves. The MAGA right has no love for those institutions and norms. It inflames ugly passions and warps reality. It is profoundly anticonservative, capable of twisting in any direction for the sake of raw power. It represents a profound break with the American conservative tradition.And so to regard the radical left as a reason to excuse, minimize or ignore the malign movement on the right is an abrogation of conservative duty and principle. If MAGA prevails, conservatism will be gravely injured — and American democracy will be, too.Jonathan Rauch (@jon_rauch) is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth.” Peter Wehner (@Peter_Wehner), a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, is a contributing Opinion writer and the author of “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. 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