So many Cawthorn scandals have dropped suddenly that a Code Red clearly *has* been ordered.
But by whom? As I said last week, there’s no shortage of suspects. Everyone in Washington has some reason to want him out of office.
The weakest of all of these stories was the first one, in which old photos of him wearing a bra over a lace top at a party emerged. That looked to be a case of Cawthorn goofing around while drinking; he’s surrounded by laughing women in the pictures. Not a big deal even for his very conservative home district, I suspect.
On Tuesday, he was stopped at the airport in Charlotte for trying to bring a gun onto a plane, the second time he’s been cited for that. That’s a scandal of his own making and another one that probably won’t hurt with voters. The same day, however, news broke that Cawthorn may have violated federal insider trading laws stemming from this post back in December:
“Tomorrow we go to the moon!”
This reply to a post of Let’s Go Brandon coin investors is the evidence being cited by those accusing Madison Cawthorn of insider trading. They allege he knew they would be announcing a deal with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown the next day. pic.twitter.com/xoOsFMwfCt
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) April 29, 2022
He bought some of the short-lived “Let’s Go Brandon” cryptocurrency at some point. Ethics watchdog groups are suspicious that he had nonpublic info that the Brown deal would soon be announced and made his purchase before then, believing that the value of the currency would soar after the announcement.
Just as interesting as the allegation itself was the timing of this scoop. Dirt on Cawthorn that had been accessible since December suddenly reached the media in late April, less than a month before his primary in North Carolina. Hmmm.
Last night a new story appeared in the Daily Mail. An ethics complaint alleges that Cawthorn and one of his congressional aides are so close that the aide is registered at Cawthorn’s own address and joined Cawthorn and his then-wife on their honeymoon. (The marriage ended after eight months.) It goes on to accuse Cawthorn of having provided “free housing, travel and loans” to the aide, supposedly none of which has been repaid. We’d all have the same guess as to what’s going on if that aide were a woman. But he isn’t. He’s a man.
The extraordinary footage, obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com and seen here for the first time today, shows Cawthorn, 26, in a car with his close aide and his scheduler Stephen Smith, 23.
Cawthorn sits in the driver’s seat apparently filmed by Smith as he adopts an exaggerated accent and says, ‘I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.’
The camera then pans back to Smith who says, ‘Me too’ as Cawthorn can be heard laughing. Smith then films himself reaching his hand over and into Cawthorn’s crotch.
The video shows Cawthorn and Smith joking and Smith touches him only briefly so maybe it’s just a case of two bros goofing around. There are also Venmo messages between the two that seem superficially flirty (“For loving me daily and nightly”) and could likewise be fratty jokes. But there’s also stuff like this: “A picture included in the exhibits filed in support of the call for an ethics investigation appears to show Cawthorn and Smith, poolside. Cawthorn lounges covered with only a towel, his arm draped over Smith who rests his head on his boss’s shoulder and places his hand on Cawthorn’s hip.”
Maybe it’s what it looks like, or maybe some enemy of Cawthorn’s has gone to great lengths to unfairly raise suspicions about his sexuality just weeks away from a primary in a deep red district. But it’s impossible to believe all of this is emerging organically rather than as part of a campaign by some Cawthorn enemy to take him down. And since Democrats have no chance at winning his seat, they have little reason to spend time and money digging this stuff up. Much more likely is that the material was stashed away in Republicans’ own files on Cawthorn and is now being quietly laundered through Democratic groups to keep their fingerprints off of it. (The anti-Cawthorn group that filed the ethics complaint about Smith is led by the Dem whom Cawthorn defeated in 2020.)
Some lefties, in fact, are convinced that Republicans have files on all of their troublemakers and could destroy any of them at any time but feel special ire towards Cawthorn because of his chatter about cocaine and orgies on Capitol Hill last month:
The stuff that Republicans, the Murdochs, the Daily Mail, et al. are doing to Cawthorn rn is what people suggested they do to Trump at some point along the way to save us all from ever greater catastrophes. It’s not undoable; they just didn’t want to.
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) April 28, 2022
It’s probably true that dirt exists on the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetzes which Republicans know about but no one else does. The problem with weaponizing that dirt, though, is that Republican voters have been so desensitized to scandal by Trump — and by the antics of Greene, Gaetz, etc — that they’re apt to shrug at it no matter what it is. Innuendo about their local rep, a proud right-wing culture warrior, being closeted may be a rare exception to that rule.
Or maybe the cumulative effect of Cawthorn’s many scandals means it’s more likely that voters will throw him out of office as they grow exasperated at seeing him in the news for the wrong reasons. In that case, each new scandal that’s revealed pushes them closer to the tipping point, irrespective of the details.
So then: Who’s the prime suspect? Who ordered this Code Red in which the oppo on Cawthorn is released day by day?
It could be Kevin McCarthy, right? McCarthy and other members of leadership met with Cawthorn after his “orgies” comment and it didn’t go well. McCarthy would have the motive to rid himself of a troublemaker who adds little to the caucus and may also have the means and opportunity, as you have to assume that the caucus leader has many strings he can pull in getting allies to release dirt on a problem member.
Making an example of Cawthorn might even strengthen his hold on leadership. The Greenes and Gaetzes will be left wondering: If he could do it to Cawthorn, could he do it to us?
But that’s pure speculation. If you’re looking for other suspects who might want Cawthorn out, how about … the entire House Republican caucus, which seemed uniformly annoyed by his “orgies” allegation? How about North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, whose PAC has been running ads in hopes of defeating Cawthorn? How about one of Cawthorn’s seven primary challengers in North Carolina, one of whom is a respected state senator with a fair chance of knocking Cawthorn off? They all have oppo teams scrounging for dirt on the incumbent, I assume. Someone’s out to get Cawthorn. Who is it?