Our book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellion, coups, and secession. DOJ has charged the head of the Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy.
In the hours after the riot, Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, described the attack as a “failed insurrection”; one of President Donald 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 also attacks against the government itself, the same core idea as with insurrection.
Within days of President Donald Trump’s election defeat, Stewart Rhodes began talking about the Insurrection Act as critical to the country’s future.
The bombastic founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers told followers that the obscure, rarely used law would allow Trump to declare a national emergency so dire that the military, militias or both would be called out to keep him in the White House.
Appearing Nov. 9, 2020, as a guest on the Infowars program of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Rhodes urged Trump to invoke the act “to suppress the Deep State” and claimed Oath Keepers already had men “stationed outside D.C. as a nuclear option.”
Invoking the Insurrection Act was an idea sparked in conservative circles that spring as a means of subduing social justice protests and related rioting, a goal that Trump seemed to embrace when he called for state leaders to “dominate” their streets. By the end of the year, it had become a rallying cry to cancel the results of a presidential election. Now, private and public discussions of the law stand as key evidence in the cases against the Oath Keepers