Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene entered a Georgia courtroom on Friday to face a challenge by a group of voters trying to block her from the ballot, citing a post-Civil War policy aimed at keeping insurrectionists from office.
In a novel legal challenge filed with the office of the Georgia secretary of state, the voters said Greene, a supporter of former president Donald Trump, has violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause.”
The clause, passed after the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s, prohibits politicians from running for Congress if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort” to the nation’s enemies.
A hearing before administrative law Judge Charles R. Beaudrot is expected to last most of the day. Beaudrot has not said whether he will issue a ruling on Friday.
Ron Fein, a lawyer for the voters seeking Greene’s disqualification, said in his opening remarks that the congresswoman played an “important role” in instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Greene seeking re-election this year
Greene, who sat silently through the beginning of the proceeding, is seeking re-election this year. The Republican primary is scheduled for May 24 and the general election on Nov. 8.
Absentee ballots will start to be mailed on April 25.
During media interviews, Greene has downplayed and justified the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters in their failed bid to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Greene this month said Democrats and journalists have pushed an “over-dramatization” of that day’s events.
The voter challenge is being spearheaded by a group called Free Speech for People that advocates for campaign finance reform. A similar challenge backed by the same group against Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn failed when a federal judge in North Carolina dismissed that suit on March 4.
Greene is expected to testify under oath on Friday and to argue that removing her from the ballot would be both unfair to her and to voters in her conservative-leaning district. Greene is expected to appeal any ruling against her, and has already brought parallel litigation in U.S. federal court seeking to halt the administrative proceeding.
In a recent court filing, Greene’s lawyers said she “vigorously denies that she aided and engaged in insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power.”
In his opening statement, her attorney James Bopp, a prominent Republican Party lawyer, said the legal challenge threatens Greene’s free speech rights.
“Fundamentally, First Amendment rights are at stake, not only the right to vote, as I’ve mentioned, or the right to run for office,” Bopp said.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday ruled that the challenge to Greene’s fitness for office can proceed.
Georgia also site of Trump-related grand jury
The actions of Trump allies on or before Jan. 6 have come under scrutiny, with a congressional committee devoted to probe the Capitol riot expected to hold televised hearings sometime in May.
Late Thursday, Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, came under fire from his own party after an audio recording showed him saying that Trump should resign over the Capitol riot.
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The comments, which McCarthy had denied hours before the recording emerged, could undermine his widely known ambition to become House speaker next year if Republicans take control of the chamber in November’s midterm elections, which many are predicting.
Trump’s actions are also being examined by that House committee, while his communications with Georgia officials after the 2020 election will be subject to a special grand jury in that state, with testimony expected in June. Trump’s phone call in early January 2021 with Georgia officials including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger saw him beseech them to “find” votes that would allow him to surpass Biden.
In a statement Thursday, Trump incorrectly blamed Raffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, for allowing the challenge against Greene to proceed, saying she is “going through hell in their attempt to unseat her.”