Judge says Marjorie Taylor Greene should stay on the ballot
ATLANTA — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., should be allowed to run for another term in office despite a push to remove her from the ballot, a state administrative judge recommended Friday after reviewing a challenge to her candidacy.
The decision by State Administrative Judge Charles Beaudrot is a blow to Greene’s critics, who sought to block her on grounds she violated a 14th Amendment clause that bars members of Congress from serving if they tried to overthrow the government.
Although the final say belongs to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the Republican is widely expected to agree with the judge’s decision ahead of the May 24 primary.
It comes two weeks after attorneys for several challengers from Greene’s northwest Georgia district argued that her actions between the November 2020 general election and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol amounted to support for an insurrection.
Beaudrot’s conclusion that Greene’s challengers “failed to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence” was not surprising to observers of the daylong hearing. He had signaled frustration with the challengers’ case throughout the proceedings.
Greene supported then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn his general election loss by rejecting Electoral College ballots in Georgia and other contested states.
But her attorneys argued her remarks and actions were protected free speech.
Raffensperger has 30 days to decide whether he will accept the judge’s recommendation.
Raffensperger was pressured by Trump to “find the votes” needed to reverse Joe Biden’s general election win in Georgia, and he fought back against unfounded accusations of fraud and mismanagement from allies such as Greene.
He is now running for reelection against Trump-endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who continues to spread lies about the 2020 election.
Although the voters’ challenge was unsuccessful, they did accomplish a key goal: forcing Greene to testify in public and under oath about her activities in late 2020 and early 2021. So far, she is the only Trump loyalist in Congress who has been required to do so.
But Greene didn’t provide much information during hours of questioning at last month’s hearing.
During a series of testy exchanges with the challengers’ attorneys, Greene repeatedly said she didn’t remember many of her remarks or actions leading up to the breach of the Capitol. She also disputed video clips and news articles documenting her statements at the time, dismissing them as manipulated by the “biased” media.
And though she acknowledged she promoted the rally that day supporting Trump’s false claims of election fraud, she described herself as a victim of the breach that left her scrambling for safety when a joint session of Congress was interrupted by protesters.
Several police officers and rioters died during or immediately after the attack, and scores of officers were also injured during the confrontation.
“I was scared. I was very scared. I was concerned. I was shocked, shocked, shocked, absolutely shocked,” Greene said of her emotions the day of the Capitol attack.
Text messages obtained by CNN just days after the hearing revealed that Greene had been in communication with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows leading up to Jan. 6. The texts indicated that Greene had played a role in drafting Trump’s game plan for that day but was also asking for help to calm the out-of-control crowd.
During the hearing on the voters’ challenge, Greene had testified that she couldn’t recall whether she urged Trump to impose martial law to remain in power. But within the texts shared with CNN was a message she apparently sent Meadows on Jan. 17, 2021, about discussions among Republican House members on that very topic.
“In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall (sic) law,” she wrote. “I don’t know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know.”
Earlier this week, Greene again said that she didn’t remember whether she sent those messages or the substance of her conversations with Meadows in January 2021.
“I don’t know if those are my messages, so I don’t know what you’re referring to,” she said.
Free Speech For People and Our Revolution, a group that grew out of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, were behind the challenge to Greene’s candidacy. After the text messages were released, they revised their complaint to Beaudrot and said they provide further proof of their case.
Greene faces five challengers in the May 24 Republican primary for her seat, and all of them say they would be more effective and less controversial if voters sent them to Washington.
Her leading challenger is health care consultant Jennifer Strahan, who has the backing of some Republicans in local and federal offices but is no match for Greene in fundraising or name recognition.