A lawyer for Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) cited an 1872 congressional action granting amnesty to Confederate soldiers to defend his own client’s eligibility for office.
The argument from Cawthorn lawyer James Bopp Jr. came in response to a legal effort to have Cawthorn declared ineligible for office because he allegedly “encouraged, and upon reasonable suspicion helped aid, the insurrection” on Jan. 6.
The legal challenge, from a group of North Carolina voters backed by the organization Free Speech For People, alleges that Cawthorn violated the third section of the 14th Amendment, which states, “No Person shall be a […] 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.”
On the phone with TPM Wednesday, Bopp said “there are substantial constitutional defenses, which include the fact that Congress passed the 1872 Amnesty Act, which removed all persons whatsoever from the disability under Section 3 as a result of engaging in an insurrection or rebellion.”
Though the Amnesty Act applied at the time to Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War, nothing in the law prevented it from being applied in the future, Bopp argued.
“There’s nothing in the Amnesty Act that says it’s only applicable to the Civil War, and it was very broad in its terms,” he said.
Ron Fein, legal director for Free Speech For People, told TPM in a statement that “Mr. Bopp’s argument is contradicted by history and common sense.”