ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia judge ruled Friday that U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is qualified to run for re-election, finding that a group of voters who challenged her eligibility failed to prove that she had engaged in an insurrection after taking office. But the decision will ultimately rest with Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Before making his decision, State Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot held a day-long hearing in April that included submissions from attorneys for the voters and for Greene, as well as extensive questioning from Greene herself. He also received a thorough briefing from both sides.
State law dictates that Beaudrot must submit his findings to Raffensperger, who must decide whether Greene should be removed from the ballot.
LOOK: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene fights legal challenge to her re-election
Raffensperger is being challenged by a Trump-backed candidate in this month’s GOP primary and would likely face a huge backlash from right-wing voters if he were to disagree with Beaudrot’s conclusion.
A spokesperson for Raffensperger said in an email that the secretary of state had received Beaudrot’s recommendation and “will issue his final decision soon.”
The challenge to Greene’s eligibility was filed by voters who allege the GOP congresswoman played a significant role in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot that disrupted Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. ‘presidential election. This puts her in violation of a rarely invoked part of the 14th Amendment regarding insurrection and makes her ineligible to run for re-election, they argue.
At the April 22 hearing on the challenge, Ron Fein, an attorney for the voters who filed the challenge, noted that in a television interview the day before the attack on the United States Capitol, Greene said the tomorrow would be “our moment of 1776”. The voters’ attorneys said some supporters of then-President Donald Trump used this reference to the American Revolution as a call for violence.
“It actually turned out to be a moment in 1861,” Fein said, alluding to the start of the Civil War.
Greene is a conservative brand and Trump ally who has become one of the GOP’s biggest fundraisers in Congress by stirring up controversy and pushing baseless conspiracy theories. At the recent hearing, Greene was questioned under oath. She repeated the baseless claim that widespread fraud led to Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, said she could not recall various inflammatory statements and social media posts attributed to her, and denied ever supporting violence.
Greene acknowledged encouraging a rally in support of Trump, but said she was unaware of plans to storm the Capitol or disrupt the voter 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 his eligibility is based on a section of the 14th Amendment which says that no person may sit in Congress “who, having previously been sworn, as a member of Congress … to uphold the Constitution of the United States, shall engage in insurrection or rebellion against the same. Ratified shortly after the Civil War, it was partly intended to prevent representatives who had fought for the Confederacy from returning to Congress.
Greene “advocated, encouraged, and helped facilitate violent resistance to our own government, our democracy, and our Constitution,” Fein said, concluding, “She engaged in insurrection.”
James Bopp, an attorney for Greene, argued that 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 is no evidence that Greene participated in the attack on the Capitol or that she communicated with or gave directions to those involved.
“Regardless of 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, the Challengers produced insufficient evidence to show that the Rep. Greene ‘committed’ to this insurrection after she was sworn in on January 3, 2021,” he wrote.
Greene’s “public statements and impassioned rhetoric” may have contributed to the environment that led to the attack, Beaudrot wrote, but his statements are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech and to the expression of such political opinions, “no matter how aberrant they may be”. before she was sworn in as a member of Congress does not amount to insurrection.
The challenge to Greene’s eligibility to run for re-election was filed by five voters who live in his district, and the procedure for such a challenge is outlined in Georgia law. Beaudrot’s decision does not bind Raffensperger, who must determine whether Green is qualified to run for re-election.
After Raffensperger makes his decision, each side has 10 days to appeal to Fulton County Superior Court. Raffensperger faces a major challenge in the May 24 ballot after refusing to bow to pressure from Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. Raffensperger denounced the Capitol attack, writing in his book that he found it “very reprehensible” that “people are now trying to minimize what happened on January 6.”
The Georgia complaint was filed by Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, on behalf of the five voters. The group has filed similar challenges in Arizona and North Carolina.
Greene has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the law voters are using to try to stop him from voting. This trial is ongoing.