U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, will take the stand Friday morning to defend herself against an effort to remove her from the ballot for her alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The hearing is one of a series of challenges being litigated by Free Speech for People, an Amherst, Massachusetts group that bills itself as a nonprofit organization focused on big money in politics, government corruption and fair elections. Greene's hearing will be livestreamed on the organization's website beginning at 9:30 a.m.
The freshman Northwest Georgia representative will be testifying under oath before a state administrative judge. Based on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring insurrectionists from office, similar ballot challenges by the organization have been filed against elected officials in Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Mike Rasbury is one of several Georgians seeking to disqualify Greene based on the insurrectionist clause. A retiree who lives in LaFayette, he said there should be consequences for elected officials who try to overthrow the government. Though he said he doesn't know what to expect at Friday's hearing, he's honored to be part of the case.
"If Marjorie Taylor Greene is on the stand under oath, I'm expecting fireworks, but I can't tell you how much or from what direction. But it should be interesting," Rasbury said in a phone interview.
On its website, Free Speech for People wrote that the group has evidence Greene helped plan the Capitol attack and that she said public violence might be necessary to keep Trump in office. Among other claims, the organization also wrote Greene accused Democratic leaders of treason, saying it was a crime punishable by death.
After the administrative hearing, the judge will present the court's findings to the secretary of state, who will decide whether Greene is eligible to appear on the ballot.
When asked for a comment on the case, a Greene campaign representative offered recent video interviews with the congresswoman on the topic.
On Tuesday, Greene was interviewed by constitutional law attorney Jenna Ellis, who previously served as a legal adviser and lawyer for former President Donald Trump, whose loss in the 2020 presidential election sparked the breach of the Capitol in an effort to block certification of the results.
"They've declared lawfare," Greene said, referencing a term that means to use the law as a weapon of war. "They're trying to politicize the courts and control our elections by literally ripping my name off the ballot. That is what they are trying to do."
Denying she had anything to do with the attack on the capitol, Greene said she legally objected to the Electoral College votes from a few states, just like Democrats did for Republican presidents.
14th Amendment, Section 3
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, 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. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
"This time, they're calling that an insurrection," Greene said.
Rasbury said no single piece of evidence convinced him that Greene is an insurrectionist, but he said she started early in rejecting Trump's loss and kept up the rhetoric. From what he understands about the case, Rasbury said it's up to Greene to prove that she's not an insurrectionist.
Rasbury said he'll be in Atlanta for the hearing, adding that he wouldn't miss what could be a pivotal event.
"It's [the case that is] going to affect, in the future, any person or people who want to overthrow our [government] and how we function. [They] should be aware that there are rules, and this is one of these rules," Rasbury said.
Greene said the nonprofit group is trying to steal her constituents' right to vote for her. The Democrats can't win in November because they are destroying the country, she said, so "they're trying to politicize courtrooms and control elections. We have to stand up against this."
Also affiliated with Free Speech for People is a group of voters in Arizona trying to disqualify three elected officials from the ballot. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as state Rep. Mark Finchem.
On Wednesday, the defendants moved to dismiss the disqualification case against them, arguing they were exercising their free speech. As reported by the Tucson Sentinel, Finchem's attorney Jack Wilenchik said it's the job of Congress — not the courts — to enact the disqualification by removing the defendants with a two-thirds vote.
Also reported by the Sentinel, Wilenchik told the court the 14th Amendment was only for Civil War-era insurrectionists and cited the Amnesty Act of 1872, saying it overruled the Constitution's 14th Amendment and pardoned confederates. North Carolina's Madison Cawthorn successfully used a similar defense to overturn his ballot challenge.
Attorneys for the voters challenging the trio countered that a Supreme Court ruling found the states have the power to qualify candidates. The judge gave no indication on the motion to dismiss made by the defendants.
Hal Ginsburg, a representative from Free Speech for People, said in a text message response to questions that the organization was part of the insurrectionist disqualification efforts in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor, said the provision in the 14th Amendment hasn't been invoked since the Civil War. However, he said, before Jan. 6 the nation's Capitol hadn't been breached since the British seized and damaged it during the War of 1812.
Timing is another factor in the case, Bullock said in a phone interview, seeing that the primary is held in about a month and early voting starts in less than two weeks.
"Ballots, if you're using a paper ballot, have already been printed up with her name on it," he said.
The Supreme Court rejected challenges to redistricting based on it being too close to the election, Bullock said.
Cawthorn's ruling came from a district court judge, so the judge in Greene's case could reach an entirely different opinion, he said.
Bullock said he'd be surprised if Greene was disqualified from the ballot, citing her free speech rights and lack of direct participation.
"It'd be one thing if she had joined the mob and broke into the Capitol. It'd make it look a lot more so [like insurrection] than supporting Trump's lies and encouraging and saying positive things about those who do break in," he said.
He also drew the parallel between Jan. 6 and the attempt to remove Communists from the government in the 1950s, in what was known as the Red Scare. Speaking positively about Communism was deemed acceptable, Bullock said, as long as one did not actively try to overthrow the government.