Madison Cawthorn backs off 'bloodshed' remark — says Capitol rioters were just 'normal people wandering in'

North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn is doubling down on his recent defense of Capitol insurrectionists — saying they were mostly "normal people" who were just "wandering in" to the Capitol.

Days after Cawthorn referred to jailed insurrectionists as "political hostages" and said he wanted to "try and bust them out of jail," Cawthorn told the Smoky Mountain News, for an exclusive interview published Thursday, that "a small minority" of rioters "got very aggressive" and "endangered people's lives."

"Those people, I believe are dangerous individuals, but the overwhelming majority of the people of the Jan. 6 thing were just normal people, there for a normal protest to redress their government," Cawthorn said. "And then they saw an open door at the top of the Capitol, and they were just kind of wandering in. I will admit they were trespassing and that was wrong."

But Cawthorn suggested that rioters charged with relatively minor offenses are being denied their due process rights by the Department of Justice for political reasons, because prosecutors wanted to create "shock and awe" in advance of President Joe Biden's inauguration. He told the newspaper he was basing his comments about the prosecution of low-level rioters on reports from Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

The newspaper didn't ask Cawthorn specifically about his call for "bloodshed" over what he falsely claims is a "rigged" electoral system — comments that made national headlines and drew widespread condemnation. But Cawthorn insisted he was not encouraging supporters to return to Washington for another insurrection — even though he appeared to suggest he was "actively working on that one," in video of his recent remarks.

"We have no plans, and no one is trying to start any form of a protest or anything in Washington," Cawthorn told the newspaper. "When I said I was actively working on it, I meant I was actually working on getting answers about the political prisoners following Jan. 6. By no means is anyone actively that I know of trying to plan some political protest going on in Washington. My office has no plans of that at all."

Cawthorn also denied that he was speaking literally when he said wanted to "bust" insurrectionists "out" of jail.

"If anybody interpreted what I said, 'bust them out,' as me getting out of my wheelchair and going Rambo mode and getting these guys out through some kind of illegal action – that's by no means what I meant," he said. "I just want normal due process. Our entire Justice Department is supposed to be blind to political affiliation, but I feel like these people are being targeted specifically because their affiliation. I want due process under the law."

Finally, Cawthorn oddly invoked QAnon when asked about rumors that he is part of a "shadow cabinet" acting on behalf of former president Donald Trump — which the reporter described as "some sort of cabal."

"The first time I ever heard about QAnon was from, I think it might have actually been from you, asking how I felt about it, and I really didn't know anything about it," Cawthorn said. "But when we start using the terms like 'shadow cabinet' and 'cabal,' I mean, that starts to sound really Q-ish. I can assure you we're a part of no shadow cabinet. I do consider myself a close confidant of President Trump, who I know quite well. We get to talk, and converse regularly. I'm very interested in the 2020 election audits. I want those to be done everywhere. I'm more than happy to have my election results audited. I think it would just mean that I won by more votes."

Read the full interview here.