Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool
Defiant U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene ‘can’t recall’ much in insurrection eligibility challenge
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene defiantly deflected most questions about social media posts and comments she made in the leadup to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in a Friday hearing to determine if she should be struck from the ballot.
Greene responded “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” dozens of times to a wide range of inquiries, seeking to know if she asked former president Donald Trump to invoke martial law, made inflammatory statements attacking Democrats or questioned election results.
The congresswoman distanced herself from far-right figures involved in the Stop the Steal movement, did not remember social media posts until they were shown as evidence, blasted CNN and other news sources writing about her actions and accused lawyers questioning her of doctoring claims.
The hearing lasted close to eight hours and was contentious for much of that time, with administrative law judge Charles Beaudrot often visibly frustrated with lawyers and their lines of questioning on both sides of the challenge and with Greene antagonistically responding to questions.
At one point, lawyers for the challengers played a clip from the 1996 movie Independence Day to ask if Greene borrowed the phrase “We will not go quietly into the night” in a video where she said that “you can't allow it to just transfer power peacefully” and that the election was stolen.
Greene also referred to Jan. 6 as a “1776 moment” in a Newsmax interview the day before the insurrection.
The hearing comes as part of an administrative challenge process initiated by a group of voters in Greene's 14th Congressional District and the nonpartisan nonprofit Free Speech for People. The group filed a challenge to Greene’s eligibility citing an obscure section of the 14th Amendment that bars people who engage in “insurrection or rebellion” from serving in Congress.
"The way that insurrections are organized nowadays, is less in uniforms with military hierarchies and chains of command, less with detailed military plans and battle, and more through social media and the mass media — that's the era that we're living in,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, in opening arguments.
Andrew Celli, a lawyer for the Georgia voters challenging Greene, said she violated her oath of office by helping cause an insurrection attempt in the U.S. Capitol through her words and actions
“She wasn't just another person with opinions and a Twitter account,” he said. “She became part of our government, and she took on an affirmative obligation as part of our government to protect the Constitution, to protect processes from anyone who would seek to block or impede them.”
James Bopp, an attorney for Greene who has also represented other groups seeking to undermine the 2020 election results, argued that the challenge did not meet proper legal thresholds and Greene’s actions did not meet the definitions of insurrection or rebellion.
While hundreds of people have been charged in relation to the Capitol riot, the congresswoman has not, and she maintains her words did not promote violence. Bopp said that she was a victim of the insurrection and the challenge was an attack on voting rights.
“They want to deny the right to vote to the thousands of people living in the 14th District of Georgia by removing Greene from the ballot,” he said.
A request filed by Greene seeking to block the hearing and dismiss the challenge in federal court was denied earlier this week.
Under Georgia law, voters can challenge the eligibility of candidates in front of an administrative law judge, and is typically used for issues of residency or other more mundane procedural rules, and the candidate has the burden of proof to show they should remain on the ballot. But in this case, the people challenging Greene will have to prove she violated the Constitution and is not able to stand for election.
After the hearing, the administrative law judge will deliver a recommendation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about Greene’s eligibility before Raffensperger makes a final decision. Regardless of the outcome, the decisions can be appealed to the Fulton County Superior Court and, potentially, the Georgia Supreme Court.
Raffensperger, who faces a Trump-backed challenge from U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (who also referenced Jan. 6 as a “1776 moment” in a deleted Instagram post), seems unlikely to remove Greene from the ballot ahead of the May 24 primary, if at all.