UPDATE: Greene defends role in Jan. 6 seige | News
ATLANTA — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was greeted by applause from supporters as she entered an Atlanta courtroom Friday to defend her bid for reelection on District 14 ballots.
Presiding Judge Charles Beaudrot of the Office of State Administrative Hearings did not issue a ruling at the conclusion of the hearing, citing post-trial legal filings related to a pending appeal that are due April 28. He said he planned to have a decision within a week of reviewing those document.
What hangs in the balance is whether Greene’s name will stay on the GOP primary ballot.
Basis for the Hearing
The challenge against her candidacy claims Greene violated the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
The clause, in part, states: “No person shall be a Senator or 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, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Freedom Speech for the People, a nonprofit political advocacy group, filed the challenge with the Georgia Secretary of State office March 24. Early voting in the May 24 primary begins May 2.
Claims against Greene
The group claims Greene helped plan and support the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Prior to the attack on the Capitol, former President Donald Trump and supporters rallied nearby in protest of 2020 election results that certified Trump’s defeat.
“The leaders of this insurrection were among us … on Facebook, on Twitter, on corners of social media. … Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of them,” said Ron Fein, representing the plaintiffs Friday during opening statements. “The way that insurrections are organized nowadays is less in uniforms with military hierarchies and chains of command, less with detailed military plans of battle, and more through social media and the mass media. That’s the era we’re living in.”
Andrew Celli, Fein’s partner, questioned Greene on a series of social media posts “liked” or made from Greene’s social media accounts — a majority from her now-suspended personal Twitter account.
Celli called into question a Dec. 3, 2020, tweet from Greene where she was looking for senators to join her and Alabama U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks’ rejection of “the fraudulent votes” for then President-elect Joe Biden.
On Dec. 19, 2020, Greene tweeted: “Join #MarchforTrump in DC on Jan. 6 to #FightforTrump” as she planned to object to fraudulent votes.
On the stand, Greene said she was asking supporters to attend a “peaceful” march and was not asking them to actively engage in violence or any type of action.
“Under my opinion, I want to do anything I can to protect election integrity, and protect the people of my district in Georgia,” said Greene, the first congressional member to give testimony under oath regarding the Jan. 6 event. “We saw a tremendous amount of voter fraud, we have investigations going on right now in the state of Georgia. My own husband showed up to vote in the general election; when he went in to vote in person, he was told he already voted by absentee ballot when in fact he had never requested an absentee ballot.”
Her attorneys argued that Greene’s free speech does not constitute “engaging” in insurrection. In response to questioning from opposing attorneys, Greene testified she didn’t recall giving tours or information to anyone related to the Capitol between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6.
In a Jan. 5, 2021 interview on Newsmax, Greene said of Jan. 6, 2021, “This is our 1776 moment.”
Greene agreed the American Revolutionary War was violent but said her references to 1776 aren’t meant to be violent.
“I was talking about the courage to object (to the electoral votes),” Greene said on the stand, adding she had never heard of 1776 being used as a code word for violence, as referenced by a “Proud Boys” document related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.
Plaintiff attorneys also questioned statements made by Greene stating, “You can’t allow it to transfer power peacefully” and “violence may be necessary” to keep Trump in power. Greene said she did not recall the context of the statements as attorneys only played partial video clips of her statements.
James Bopp, Greene’s attorney, began his questioning of Greene just after 3 p.m. Friday. Greene said she was scared and shocked as she was locked inside the House chambers of the Capitol during the attack. During the attack, she posted a video on her Twitter account, encouraging those infiltrating the Capitol to remain calm and have a “peaceful protest.”
“This is not a time for violence. This is a time to support our election integrity and support our important process that we’re going through,” Greene said in the video, stating on the stand that she was unaware which group was inside the Capitol. She testified she was told initially it could have been Antifa or Black Lives Matter supporters.
The legal process
According to Georgia code section 21-2-5, an administrative law judge shall report his or her findings to the Secretary of State, who must then determine if the candidate is qualified to seek and hold the public office.
“If the Secretary of State determines that the candidate is not qualified, the Secretary of State shall withhold the name of the candidate from the ballot or strike such candidate’s name from the ballot if the ballots have been printed,” according to the Georgia code.
Greene is running to keep her seat in the November election. She is facing five other Republicans in the May 24 primary. Three candidates are on the Democrat primary ballot.
Greene previously filed a preliminary injunction to block the complaint; however, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg denied the injunction April 18 allowing the citizens’ challenge to move forward. Greene’s attorneys filed an appeal to that decision, which is the point of reference for Beaudrot’s decision to postpone a decision.
A representative for Greene said in an interview outside court that if Greene is removed from the ballot by the Georgia Secretary of State, she may seek federal court action to prevent state officials from intervening in federal election matters.
Neither Greene nor any other lawmaker or affiliates promoting a Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol attack have been criminally charged with insurrection.
North Georgia residents react
Informed that no criminal charges have been filed against Greene, Dalton resident Emily Dixon said, “Well, then I think it should be up to the voters whether she goes back or not. They shouldn’t have that choice taken from them if she hasn’t been charged with a crime.”
Dalton resident Maria Trejo expressed a similar sentiment, “I haven’t watched (the hearing) today,” she said. “I haven’t followed it closely. I know she’s said a lot of things I think are wrong. I didn’t vote for her. But if she’s who the people want to represent them they should have that right.”
Following the hearing, Bopp said he fears the hearing would have dire consequences and a negative impact on Greene in the May 24 primary.