On January 6 of last year, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States Capitol in an effort to violently overturn the results of the 2020 election, which saw then-President Donald Trump defeated by Joe Biden at the ballot box.
The deadly failed insurrection was the culmination of a months-long smear campaign from Trump and his allies against the validity of American democracy. Trump falsely insisted to his supporters that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election and that they were the targets of a hostile takeover. Up until moments before the insurrection started, at a rally outside the White House, he urged them to "fight" and march to the Capitol to make their voices heard, warning we wouldn't "have a country anymore" if his election loss was allowed to stand.
The insurrectionists shattered windows, ransacked offices, beat police officers, smeared excrement across the walls and called for the execution of any elected official they deemed disloyal to Trump. It would be hours before Trump finally told them to vacate the Capitol.
In the year since, Republicans who embraced Trump's election lies have embraced conspiracy theories in order to shield themselves from accountability. They've baselessly promoted the conspiracy theory that the insurrection was orchestrated by federal agents in order to discredit Republicans.
Far-right Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina—who himself has frequently advocated for violence against Democrats—was the latest to make this claim.
Cawthorn told far-right disinformation outlet, the Daily Caller:
"I suspect there are several actors who are involved inside of this riot, inside of what happened on January 6, that they don't want to have named. So I think there were members of the federal government who were deeply involved in this."
By many accounts, Cawthorn is right, but not in the way he thinks.
There were members of the federal government involved, and Cawthorn is one of them. Republican elected officials repeatedly escalated tensions and promoted disinformation in their embrace of Trump's refusal to concede.
For his part, Cawthorn encouraged Republicans at a Turning Point USA event—held just over two weeks before the insurrection—to "lightly threaten" members of Congress who didn't support so-called "election integrity." He spoke just hours before the insurrection at Trump's rally on the White House, insisting that Democrats were "trying to silence your voice."
Even Cawthorn's own lawyer seems prepared to concede the Congressman's partial culpability for the riot. Cawthorn is currently facing an effort in North Carolina's 13th District to keep him off the ballot in 2022, citing a constitutional amendment designed to keep insurrectionists from running for office.
In statements to the press, Cawthorn's attorney—James Bopp Jr.—cited the Confederate Amnesty Act, which excepted confederate soldiers from the insurrection amendment. Bopp argued that this amnesty extended to future insurrections, implicitly arguing that Cawthorn did aid an insurrection but couldn't be barred from the ballot because of it.
So people conceded Cawthorn was correct: members of the federal government were involved in the insurrection.
Social media users continue to decry Republican lawmakers' stances on the insurrection.
"Deeply involved," indeed.