ATLANTA — Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is qualified to be a candidate to run for reelection in Georgia's 14th Congressional District.
This comes after State Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot deemed Friday afternoon that Greene could run again, rejecting arguments from a group of voters who had challenged her eligibility over allegations that she engaged in insurrection. Beaudrot announced his decision, but also said the decision would ultimately be up to Raffensperger.
Late Friday, Raffensperger agreed to keep Greene on the ballot.
A challenge to her qualification to run for reelection was heard in a state administrative court last month.
The challenge filed in March alleged that Greene, a Republican, helped facilitate the Jan. 6, 2021, riot that disrupted Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. That violates a rarely cited provision of the 14th Amendment and makes her ineligible to run for reelection, according to the challenge.
The amendment 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.
The Georgia complaint was filed on the voters' behalf by Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group.
The group filed similar challenges on behalf of voters in Arizona, where a judge ruled to keep three Republicans on the ballot, and in North Carolina against Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who spoke at the rally that preceded the riot. A federal judge blocked the challenge against Cawthorn, writing that laws approved by Congress in 1872 and 1898 mean the 14th Amendment section can’t apply to current House members.
At the state administrative hearing in April, Greene was combative in testimony, saying she did not remember liking and making various social media posts surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year and accusing an opposing lawyer of using chopped videos and twisting her words.
Greene — who, the day before the Capitol riot, proclaimed on TV that this is "our 1776 moment” — testified that she's never endorsed violence.
Greene has repeatedly denied aiding or engaging in an insurrection and has filed a lawsuit alleging that the law the voters are using to challenge her eligibility is itself unconstitutional.
But Ron Fein, a lawyer for the voters who filed the challenge, said Greene took an oath and then broke it by engaging in an insurrection. While Greene wasn’t on the steps of the Capitol, she nevertheless played an important role in stoking Republican fury ahead of the attack, Fein said.
When asked about the fact that her Facebook account had, in 2019, “liked” a post calling for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be shot in the head, Greene said she had no memory of that and said someone else could have been responsible.
Whenever Celli suggested that she'd endorsed the use of violence to interrupt the certification of the electoral votes, Greene asserted she doesn't support violence and was encouraging peaceful protest.
Celli played a clip of an interview Greene did Jan. 5, 2021, in which she said this is “our 1776 moment.” When Celli asked if she was aware some Trump supporters used that reference as a call to violence, Greene said that wasn't her intention and that she was talking about her plans to object to the certification of electoral votes.
“I was talking about the courage to object,” she said.
Celli appeared to grow frustrated at times when she didn’t directly answer his questions and accused him of was speculating.
“Ms. Greene, I’m just asking questions,” he said.
“I’m just answering,” she responded.
James Bopp, a lawyer for Greene, said his client “did not engage in the attack on the Capitol,” and the challengers are making a very serious charge with significant ramifications.
“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.
Emory University Political Science Professor Dr. Andra Gillespie said that Greene's responses at the hearing-- saying that others she couldn't name are authorized to post on her social media accounts, and saying she could not recall key events and statements before, during and after the riots-- are likely to be part of the on-going investigation of the Select House Committee on the January 6 riots.
"By claiming to not remember or to not be sure who actually sent out some of these social media messages," Dr. Gillespie said, "What Congresswoman Greene is trying to do is to give herself plausible deniability that she wasn't actually responsible for the things that went out in her name. And also by claiming to not remember what her mindset was on January 6, 2021, she also avoids saying something that could actually be used as evidence against her."