Marjorie Taylor Greene cleared to run for reelection after insurrection charges

Judge finds insufficient evidence to support claims that firebrand Republican lawmaker helped instigate January 6 storming of US Capitol

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks about Twitter, on Thursday, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks about Twitter, on Thursday, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

ATLANTA  (AP) — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accepted a judge’s findings Friday and said US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is qualified to run for reelection despite claims by a group of voters that she had engaged in insurrection.

Georgia Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot issued a decision just hours earlier that Green was eligible to run, finding that the voters hadn’t produced sufficient evidence to support their claims. After Raffensperger adopted the judge’s decision, the group that filed the complaint on behalf of the voters vowed to appeal.

Before reaching his decision, Beaudrot had held a daylong hearing in April that included arguments from lawyers for the voters and for Greene, as well as extensive questioning of Greene herself. He also received additional filings from both sides.

Raffensperger is being challenged by a candidate backed by former US president Donald Trump in the state’s May 24 GOP primary after he refused to bend to pressure from Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. Raffensperger could have faced huge blowback from right-wing voters if he had disagreed with Beaudrot’s findings.

Raffensperger wrote in his “final decision” that typical challenges to a candidate’s eligibility have to do with questions about residency or whether they have paid their taxes. Such challenges are allowed under a procedure outlined in Georgia law.

“In this case, Challengers assert that Representative Greene’s political statements and actions disqualify her from office,” Raffensperger’s decision said. “That is rightfully a question for the voters of Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.”

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wears a ‘Stop the Steal’ mask while speaking with fellow first-term Republican members of Congress, on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, on January 4, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The challenge to Greene’s eligibility was filed by Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, for five voters in her district who allege the GOP congresswoman played a significant role in the January 6, 2021, riot that disrupted Congress’ certification of Biden’s presidential victory. They had argued that put her in violation of a seldom-invoked part of the 14th Amendment having to do with insurrection and makes her ineligible to run for reelection.

Greene applauded Beaudrot’s decision and called the challenge to her eligibility an “unprecedented attack on free speech, on our elections, and on you, the voter.”

“But the battle is only beginning,” she said in a statement. “The left will never stop their war to take away our freedoms.” She added, “This ruling gives me hope that we can win and save our country.”

Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, filed the challenge on behalf of the voters. The group had sent a letter to Raffensperger on Friday urging him to reject the judge’s recommendation. They have 10 days to appeal his decision in Fulton County Superior Court.

The group said in a statement that Beaudrot’s decision “betrays the fundamental purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause and gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections.”

During the April 22 hearing, Ron Fein, a lawyer for the voters, noted that in a TV interview the day before the attack at the US Capitol, Greene said the next day would be “our 1776 moment.” Lawyers for the voters said some supporters of then-president Trump used that reference to the American Revolution as a call to violence.

Insurrectionist supporters of then-US president Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington, on January 6, 2021. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

“In fact, it turned out to be an 1861 moment,” Fein said, alluding to the start of the Civil War.

Greene is a conservative firebrand and Trump ally who has become one of the GOP’s biggest fundraisers in Congress by stirring controversy and pushing baseless conspiracy theories. During the recent hearing, she repeated the unfounded claim that widespread fraud led to Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, and said she didn’t recall various incendiary statements and social media posts attributed to her. She denied ever supporting violence.

Greene acknowledged encouraging a rally to support Trump, but she said she wasn’t aware of plans to storm the Capitol or disrupt the electoral count using violence. Greene said she feared for her safety during the riot and used social media posts to encourage people to be safe and stay calm.

The challenge to her eligibility was based on a section of the 14th Amendment that says no one can serve 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.” Ratified shortly after the Civil War, it was meant in part to keep representatives who had fought for the Confederacy from returning to Congress.

Greene “urged, encouraged and helped facilitate violent resistance to our own government, our democracy and our Constitution,” Fein said, concluding: “She engaged in insurrection.”

James Bopp, a lawyer for Greene, argued his client engaged in protected political speech and was, herself, a victim of the attack on the Capitol, not a participant.

Beaudrot wrote that there’s no evidence that Greene participated in the attack on the Capitol or that she communicated with or gave directives to people who were involved.

“Whatever the exact parameters of the meaning of ‘engage’ as used in the 14th Amendment, and assuming for these purposes that the Invasion was an insurrection, Challengers have produced insufficient evidence to show that Rep. Greene ‘engaged’ in that insurrection after she took the oath of office on January 3, 2021,” he wrote.

Greene’s “public statements and heated rhetoric” may have contributed to the environment that led to the attack, but they are protected by the First Amendment, Beaudrot wrote.

“Expressing constitutionally-protected political views, no matter how aberrant they may be, prior to being sworn in as a Representative is not engaging in insurrection under the 14th Amendment,” he said.

US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene sits in a courtroom, on Friday, April 22, 2022, in Atlanta. A judge in Georgia on Friday, May 6, found that Green can run for reelection, rejecting arguments from a group of voters who had challenged her eligibility over allegations that she engaged in insurrection. But the decision will ultimately be up to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)

On social media, she has voiced support for racist views, unfounded QAnon pro-Trump conspiracy theories such as the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and calls for violence against Democratic politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

Last February, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called her embrace of conspiracy theories and “loony lies” a “cancer for the Republican Party.” The Democratic-led House that same month tossed her from her two committee assignments, the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee.

In January, Twitter said it had permanently banned Taylor Greene’s personal account due to misinformation on COVID-19 policy, but the ban does not affect her official Twitter account, @RepMTG.

In 2018, two years before her election to Congress, she speculated on Facebook that California wildfires may have been caused by “lasers or blue beams of light” controlled by a left-wing cabal tied to a powerful Jewish family.

That year she also shared a video, also on Facebook, that lambasted “Zionist supremacists” and advanced the “great replacement” theory, which falsely alleges that Jews are conspiring to undermine white-majority countries by bringing in non-white immigrants.

ToI Staff contributed to this report

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