Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is cleared to run for reelection after concurring opinions were issued Friday by Georgia state Judge Charles Beaudrot and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) amid a legal challenge sparked by Greene’s efforts to help overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Beaudrot was charged with overseeing the case, which was brought by a handful of voters in Greene’s district, an area northwest of Atlanta. But Raffensperger had the final say on her eligibility under the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has participated in an insurrection against the government from serving in Congress.
“Challengers have produced insufficient evidence to show that Rep. Greene ‘engaged’ in that insurrection after she took the oath of office on January 3, 2021,” Beaudrot wrote in a 19-page initial decision.
He wrote later in the document that the challengers made “a valiant effort to support inferences that Rep. Greene was an insurrectionist,” but said, “the evidence is lacking, and the Court is not persuaded.” (Given that he could not say whether Greene engaged in the riot, Beaudrot declined to say whether he agreed the event technically constituted an “insurrection” as defined by the 14th Amendment.)
Raffensperger agreed with the judge. Acknowledging how unusual the case was, he wrote that “typical candidate challenges ... raise questions as to a candidate’s residency or whether they have paid all of their taxes.”
Greene responded to the news over Twitter.
“ACQUITTED,” she wrote, despite the fact that no criminal charges were involved.
Free Speech for People, the nonprofit that represented the voters challenging Greene, said Friday their attorneys planned to appeal the decision to the Georgia Superior Court.
“This decision betrays the fundamental purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause and gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections,” the group said in a statement.
Greene testified for more than three hours during an April 22 hearing, claiming she did not remember much about the lead-up to the riot. However, several social media videos and news interviews played in court showed her arguing that then-President Donald Trump had actually won the 2020 election and should remain in power. She repeatedly promoted Trump’s rally that was held shortly before the riot.
The rally, titled “Save America,” was Trump’s last-ditch effort to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. He called on then-Vice President Mike Pence to disrupt Congress’ formal certification process, since the vice president oversees it. The role is largely ceremonial, however, and legal experts agree the vice president has no authority to intervene.
The burden of proof falls entirely on Free Speech for People and the five Georgia voters challenging Greene. Their claim hinges on a provision of the 14th Amendment enacted in the wake of the Civil War amid concerns that supporters of the Confederacy would be sent to serve in Washington and undermine the country they fought against.
Greene is not accused of actively participating in the Capitol riot, as she was among members of Congress who were evacuated from the building when it was breached by Trump supporters. Rather, she is accused of fanning the flames of what has widely been dubbed an attempted insurrection.
“It’s true that Greene didn’t attack police officers herself, but in the Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis never fired a shot,” the nonprofit said in its statement. “The case law under the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause is clear that any voluntary assistance to an insurrection is disqualifying, and the evidence presented in this case established beyond serious question that Greene helped facilitate an assemblage of violent extremists for the purpose, as she admitted on video, of preventing the peaceful transfer of power.”
On Jan. 5, 2021, the newly sworn-in congresswoman told her Facebook followers that the next day was to be another “1776.” Some of the Capitol rioters even came dressed in “1776” apparel; the foundational year is used by some on the far right to refer to a violent uprising against government leaders they disagree with.
During her testimony, Greene denied that she had invoked 1776 to call for violence. She said it represented the “courage” to oppose the results of the election.
In Beaudrot’s opinion, the comment about 1776 constituted heated political rhetoric and encouragement to protest but was not a “call to arms for consummation of a pre-planned violent revolution.”
Greene denied or claimed not to remember a long list of other accusations as well, including whether she had ever discussed martial law with Trump or his chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows. Text messages published by CNN a few days after the hearing revealed that Greene had texted Meadows about the possibility, saying on Jan. 17, 2021, that “several [other members of Congress] are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law.” Biden was sworn in four days later.
With Georgia’s May 24 primary coming up fast, Greene’s name is expected to appear on the ballot; if she is ultimately disqualified, voters will be advised that any vote for her will not be counted.
Read the decision below.