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Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks to the crowd before Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally on April 9 in Selma, N.C.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks to the crowd before Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally on April 9 in Selma, North Carolina.Chris Seward / AP, file

Republican senator calls for ethics probe into Madison Cawthorn

A red-state Republican senator calling for an investigation into a GOP colleague from his home state just doesn’t happen often.

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By any fair measure, Rep. Madison Cawthorn appears to be in a difficult political position. It was a month ago, for example, when the North Carolina Republican claimed his GOP colleagues had invited him to orgies and did cocaine in his presence.

Under intense pressure from his ostensible allies, Cawthorn walked it all back soon after.

This was, however, just part of a long list of the freshman lawmaker’s difficulties. Cawthorn was also, for example, recently caught more than once driving with a revoked license. He also brought a weapon to a school-board meeting. On a related note, the GOP congressman was caught trying to carry a gun through airport security — and then yesterday, he was again caught doing the same thing.

Also yesterday, The Washington Examiner, a conservative media outlet, reported that Cawthorn may have violated federal insider trading laws as part of an alleged pump-and-dump cryptocurrency scheme.

On Dec. 29, the beleaguered North Carolina congressman posed at a party with James Koutoulas, a hedge fund manager and the ringleader of the Let’s Go Brandon cryptocurrency, a meme coin set up in the wake of the chant mocking President Joe Biden. “LGB legends. ... Tomorrow we go to the moon!” Cawthorn, who has stated publicly he owns the cryptocurrency, posted on Instagram in response to the picture posted on Koutoulas’s Instagram page.

Sure enough, a day later, the cryptocurrency announced a deal that caused its value to spike by 75 percent. It later collapsed, but regardless, the Examiner spoke to ethics experts who agreed that the Republican lawmaker’s efforts were deeply problematic.

“This looks really, really bad,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, the government affairs manager for Project on Government Oversight, a federal watchdog group. “This does look like a classic case of you got some insider information and acting on that information. And that’s illegal.”

Taking stock of the congressman’s many overlapping controversies, New York magazine’s Jon Chait joked, “I am increasingly drawn to a novel explanation of Cawthorn’s frenetic generation of terrible news stories: He has made a list of every major political scandal and is attempting to commit all of them.”

What I was eager to see, however, was the reaction from the North Carolinian’s colleagues. There are countless examples of members of Congress facing difficult ethics questions, only to have their partisan allies brush off the controversies as unimportant.

But Cawthorn, who’s short on friends on Capitol Hill after the whole orgy-and-cocaine mess, isn’t exactly in a position to lean on the support of his fellow Republicans. The News & Observer in Raleigh reported this morning:

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate fellow Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn on Tuesday morning after the Washington Examiner broke a story Monday afternoon saying Cawthorn could be implicated in insider trading.

“Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation,” Tillis said in a tweet. “There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee.”

A Politico report added this morning, “It’s pretty rare for party infighting to be this public.”

It is, indeed. A red-state Republican senator calling for an investigation into a GOP colleague from his home state just doesn’t happen often.