MADISON CAWTHORN EXPOSED FOR A LIFETIME OF FALSEHOODS: Cawthorn said a close friend had crashed the car in which he was a passenger and fled the scene, leaving him to die “in a fiery tomb.” Cawthorn was “declared dead,” he said in the 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College. He said he told doctors that he expected to recover and that he would “be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.” Key parts of Cawthorn’s talk, however, were not true. The friend, Bradley Ledford, who has not previously spoken publicly about the chapel speech, said in an interview that Cawthorn’s account was false and that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage. An accident report obtained by The Washington Post said Cawthorn was “incapacitated,” not that he was declared dead. Cawthorn himself said in a lawsuit deposition, first reported by the news outlet AVL Watchdog, that he had been rejected by the Naval Academy before the crash.
GUNS IN CHURCH BILL CLEARS THE NC SENATE WITH 3 DEMS SUPPORTING: The North Carolina Senate backed a bill Monday night that would let churches that also host schools allow concealed weapons in their buildings when school is not in session. Senate Bill 43 passed the chamber 31-18, and it heads now to the House for more discussion. Guns are already allowed in houses of worship, provided church, temple, mosque, etc., leadership allow them. But current law forbids guns on school campuses, bill sponsors said, and religious campuses that have their own private schools qualify as school campuses. Gun bills are often a partisan issue in the General Assembly, but this measure had some bipartisan support. Sens. Sarah Crawford, D-Wake, Don Davis, D-Pitt, and Kirk deViere, D-Cumberland, voted in favor of the bill. The bill sparked no debate Monday night on the Senate floor.
MASS SHOOTINGS IN NC NEARLY DOUBLED IN 2020: In 2020, North Carolina reported 20 mass shootings that killed 26 and injured 80. A year earlier, the state had 11 mass shootings that killed 13 and injured 40. Among North Carolina's deadliest shootings last year was one March 15 in Moncure that killed seven. The state's bloodiest shootings included one June 22 in Charlotte that killed four and injured five. With COVID-19 cases falling and vaccines rolling out, some criminologists hope a rebounding economy and reopened schools will drive down the national numbers in 2021. A USA TODAY analysis of Gun Violence Archive statistics from 2020 shows that mass shootings surged by 47% as many states reported unprecedented increases in weapons-related incidents. In 2020, the United States reported 611 mass shooting events that resulted in 513 deaths and 2,543 injuries. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings with 465 deaths and 1,707 injured. “Those numbers are sobering,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research at Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that works to reduce gun violence nationally. “There are lots of theories flying left and right as to why this happened and it’s too early to tell, but what’s clear is that it was a very deadly year.”
FBI DIRECTOR ON THE SENATE HOTSEAT OVER JAN 6 INSURRECTION: FBI Director Christopher A. Wray is due to appear Tuesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he is likely to face a barrage of questions about the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol and whether the bureau underestimated the looming danger. Wray’s appearance before Congress marks his first since the failed insurrection, and his first as a part of the Biden administration. Wray had a fraught relationship with President Donald Trump, who criticized the FBI’s approach to racial justice demonstrations, election security, and its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The FBI director starts this stage of his tenure with a different challenge: convincing lawmakers that the FBI did not fall short in its duty to protect the nation from threats posed by far-right domestic extremists. Tuesday’s hearing will be a public test of Wray’s new relationship with the Biden administration and the Democrats who now control the Senate. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), has publicly criticized the Justice Department and FBI over their approach to the threat of violence posed by right-wing extremists during Trump’s tenure. “Unfortunately, the FBI appears to have taken steps in recent years that minimize the threat of white supremacist and far-right violence, a grave concern that some of us have raised with you on numerous occasions in recent years,” Durbin and nine other Senate Democrats wrote to Wray last week. Wray is also likely to face questions Tuesday about a Jan. 5 intelligence report from the FBI’s Norfolk office, which warned of social media chatter that Trump supporters were talking about creating a perimeter around the U.S. Capitol and storming inside.
NAZIS ARE BREAKING UP, CRAWLING BACK INTO THE WOODWORK: “This group needs new leadership and a new direction,” the St. Louis branch of the Proud Boys announced recently on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, echoing denunciations by at least six other chapters also rupturing with the national organization. “The fame we’ve attained hasn’t been worth it.” Similar rifts have emerged in the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that recruits veterans, and the Groyper Army, a white nationalist organization focused on college campuses and a vocal proponent of the false claim that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 presidential election. The shake-up is driven in part by the large number of arrests in the aftermath of the Capitol riot and the subsequent crackdown on some groups by law enforcement. As some members of the far right exit more established groups and strike out on their own, it may become even more difficult to track extremists who have become more emboldened to carry out violent attacks. After the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, accusations about informants and undercover agents have been particularly pointed. “Traitors are everywhere, everywhere,” wrote one participant on a far-right Telegram channel. Extremist organizations tend to experience internal upheaval after any cataclysmic event, as seen in the case of the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead, or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. Daryl Johnson, who has studied the Three Percenters and other paramilitary groups, said the current infighting could lead to further hardening and radicalization. “When these groups get disrupted by law enforcement, all it does is scatter the rats,” he said. “It does not get rid of the rodent problem.”