Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) appeared in an Atlanta courtroom on April 22 in response to a lawsuit by a left-wing activist group that claims she’s constitutionally ineligible to hold office because of her comments on and after Jan. 6, 2021.
Greene is accused of having played a part in the 2021 Capitol breach, which some people have described as an “insurrection.” She has denied any involvement.
Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, brought the action against Greene because of a section of the 14th Amendment that deals with “insurrection or rebellion.”
Under the 14th Amendment, one of three “Civil War amendments” that Southern states were forced to ratify to reenter the Union, those who served with the Confederacy or otherwise rebelled against the federal government were made ineligible for most federal offices.
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … or hold any office, civil or military … who, having previously taken an oath … 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,” the text of the amendment reads.
“This is a rare action and, in fact, it hasn’t happened for over 150 years because insurrections against the United States, let alone insurrections in which members of Congress were involved is a very rare phenomenon,” Fein said before the hearing.
“But Marjorie Taylor Greene crossed the line, and she met the legal standard for engaging in insurrection, which, under our Constitution, means that she is disqualified from future public office.”
In the complaint asking for Greene to be disqualified from running for reelection, petitioners alleged that Greene had “aided and engaged in an insurrection.”
In his opening statement, James Bopp, Greene’s legal counsel, rejected the complainants’ characterization of Greene’s statements and actions in the days leading up to Jan. 6.
“This is a court of law,” Bopp said in his opening statement, referencing the politicization of the hearing. “This is not a place for hyperbole, this is not a place for political smears.”
“Words matter here,” he said.
The decision reached in the case, Bopp said, “has very broad ramifications for the rights of Representative Greene, the voters in her district, and our democracy.”
Those bringing the complaint, he said, “want to remove the right to vote from thousands of people living in the 14th district of Georgia by having Greene removed from the ballot.”
“Voters have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice,” Bopp said. “And they have the right to have their vote counted.”
Instead of the 14th Amendment, Bopp said, the issue is actually a First Amendment question; under those standards, he contended, Greene’s speech was entirely legal and protected under the law.
While he said some of Greene’s past statements have been “hyperbole,” he insisted that her statements were well within the bounds of her right to free political speech.
“Speaking against the certification of the election alone is political speech and should be protected,” he said.
During another section of the hearing, Fein seemed to tie support for the American Revolution to support for Jan. 6, and he asked her a long string of questions during which he described the American Revolution as an “insurrection,” echoing terms that some have used to describe the events of Jan. 6.
“The Declaration of Independence describes King George as a ‘tyrant,’ right?” Fein asked, to which Greene responded in the affirmative.
“And you would agree that when a government acts tyrannically, then it’s unfit to be the ruler of a free people, right?” Fein continued.
“We’re typically against tyrannical governments, yeah,” Greene replied.
“You know that the American Revolution was a violent rebellion against British rule?” Fein asked. “And they were trying to overthrow the government in Britain that was ruling the colonies, is that right?”
“Yes,” Greene said, adding “America was trying to start our own government.”
“That was an insurrection, wouldn’t you agree?” Fein asked.
“I don’t know where it said that,” Greene replied. “I believe the American Revolution is a part of our history where we separated from the crown and started our own government.”
“And the separation was brought about by violence, yeah?” Fein asked.
“There was a revolutionary war, yes,” Greene answered.
“And the colonists were justified in using violence to get rid of the tyrannical government in Britain, right?” Fein asked.
“I assume so,” Greene said. “It was a revolutionary war, it was violent.”
Fein then linked the two by playing a clip of Greene speaking on Fox News from around the same time in which she referenced the Declaration of Independence, when speaking about the events of Jan. 6.
“If you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants,” Greene said at the time.
“In that statement we looked at, you’re comparing the overthrow of the British Crown in America to 1776,” Fein asserted.
However, the statement was cut off, causing Greene to express concerns over its accuracy.
Later, Fein rounded out his argument, contending that Greene’s reference to the documents and ideals of the American Revolution, including a tweet prior to Jan. 6 reading “1776,” showed that she supported political violence.
Earlier in the hearing, Fein was even more explicit in tying the two together, suggesting that Greene’s “1776” tweet was a “codeword” for insurrection.
“The day before the attack, she signaled to her followers a codeword that meant to storm federal buildings and supposedly overthrow tyrants,” Fein told MSNBC on April 20.
Speaking on her use of the term “1776,” Greene said, “I have used it as a term, but I do not use it as a term of violence, as you’re trying to push.”
In a tweet attached to a photo of the front of the courthouse, which had “1776” on a placard, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who arrived at the courtroom unexpectedly on April 22, mocked Fein’s efforts to tie the two together.
“This seal hangs over the Georgia Courthouse hearing the MTG matter,” Gaetz said. “Note the 1776 date. Why would such an idol to insurrection be allowed here?”
In a statement to The Epoch Times, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) also blasted Fein for the line of questioning.
“The radical Left now thinks that mentioning the year ‘1776’ automatically makes you a supporter of the events that transpired on Jan. 6,” Biggs said. “Their logic would mean that Americans who celebrate the Fourth of July are also supporters of the events that occurred on Jan. 6.”
“The lawyer arguing this frivolous case against Representative Greene is clueless and is unjustly smearing her. The irony of this all is that the year ‘1776’ is featured on the state seal in the very courtroom where the proceedings are occurring.”
McCarthy, Other Republicans Defend Greene
Throughout the trial, many prominent Republicans defended Greene in tweets and other statements.
President Donald Trump in a statement blasted high-level GOP officials in the state for allowing the hearing to proceed.
“The Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, and Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, perhaps in collusion with the Radical Left Democrats, have allowed a horrible thing to happen to a very popular Republican, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Trump wrote. “She is now going through hell in their attempt to unseat her.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the effort “undemocratic” in a tweet, suggesting that it was a cheap effort to remove Greene from the ballot over the heads of voters.
“American voters should determine who represents them in Congress, not well-funded political activists,” McCarthy wrote, adding that “[the] case against Rep. Taylor Greene is undemocratic & un-American.”
In another tweet, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.)—who has been the focus of similar efforts—wrote, “The left is trying to remove patriots like @RepMTG and me from the ballot. We expect them to act like that.”
Gaetz also commented on Twitter after he arrived, saying, “I’m here in Atlanta to support Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene against the assault on democracy that is this effort to remove her from the ballot.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona also wrote in defense of Greene.
“The Radical Left’s smear campaign of @RepMTG is unacceptable,” Biggs said. “Preventing voters in #GA14 from deciding who their elected representative is does not protect ‘our democracy.’ I stand with MTG!”
Nick Adams, a conservative political commentator, said in a tweet: “Liberals can’t beat Marjorie Taylor Greene at the polls so they have to try to kick her off the ballot with trumped up charges.”
State Judge Charles Beaudrot, who presided over the all-day hearing, asked both sides to submit briefs by midnight on April 28, and said he would try to complete his findings within a week after that. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, will then take Beaudrot’s findings and decide whether Greene is eligible for the May 24 primary.
The hearing was broadcast live on C-SPAN, a fact that Greene criticized earlier this week.
“They’re going to allow the press in the courtroom. They’re going to allow the whole thing to be videoed live and go anywhere in the world they want to,” Greene said in a video posted to social media. “You know what that’s going to look like? The Democrats and the nasty mainstream media, the ones who lie about me constantly anyways, they’re going to be able to twist and turn and clip out any little piece they want of these horrible things that these funded attorneys are going to try to say about me.”