Lawyers for voters seeking to use the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist clause to block Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) return to Congress accused her of lying at a hearing last week and asked the judge to allow new evidence—a text she sent to ex-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
Attorneys for Free Speech for People, an advocacy group, said in a brief filed Friday that the text proves Greene was dishonest when she testified she couldn’t recall advocating for Trump to invoke martial law after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill.
Lawyers for the voters and for Greene sparred in their briefs, filed to a Georgia state administrative judge, over the meaning of “engage” and questioned the honesty of each others’ cases, as one of the most novel constitutional challenges in a century nears its end.
The court is being asked to decide whether Greene participated in an insurrection and, if so, whether that bars her from seeking reelection under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
In the text, uncovered by the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6., Greene told Meadows that some members of Congress were saying in a private chat group that “the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall (sic) law. I don’t know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him.”
“Greene’s testimony at the hearing that she could not remember discussing martial law with anyone was already dubious. This text with President Trump’s Chief of Staff makes her testimony even more incredible because it seems like the kind of message with the kind of recipient that a reasonable person testifying truthfully would remember,” the voters’ attorneys wrote.
Greene’s attorney, James Bopp, Jr., said the text shows that Greene not only didn’t advocate for martial law, but that she doesn’t know the particulars of using such a provision.
“The text very clearly said she doesn’t know about those things. It couldn’t be clearer,” Bopp said in an interview Friday. “It’s just another outrageous fabrication that we have been seeing from the other side throughout this case, because they don’t have the law on their side.”
Meaning of ‘Engage’
At issue is an 1867 law designed to bar those who participated in the Civil War against the United States from returning to Congress. Lawyers for Georgia voters argue that it applies to Greene and other elected officials they say supported the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
“Engage includes both words and actions. Confederate leaders (from Jefferson Davis down) used words to tell subordinates what to do,” attorneys for Free Speech for People wrote. “Although “merely disloyal sentiments or expressions” may not be sufficient, marching orders or instructions to capture a particular objective, or to disrupt or obstruct a particular government proceeding, constitute engagement.”
The attorneys specifically noted Greene’s call for supporters to head to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that “she told them, ‘You can’t allow it to just transfer power ‘peacefully’ like Joe Biden wants and allow him to become our president.”
Bopp, Jr., mocked the case brought against his client, and accused the plaintiff’s attorneys of making deliberate misstatements. He noted that the voters’ case never linked Greene directly to any actions taken by the rioters, and provided no evidence that she helped plan or organize the attacks.
“Challengers’ “evidence” is all irrelevant speech where they misstate and misconstrue Rep. Greene’s words to try to use her speech against her. They preposterously claim that words like “1776,” “The Declaration of Independence,” “The American Revolution,” and advocacy of “The Second Amendment” are all just “code words” for engaging in an insurrection.”
He saved his harshest words for a decision by the opposing lawyers to play snippets of the movie “Independence Day,” to accuse Greene of rallying supporters just as a fictional president did to fight off aliens in the 25-year-old movie.
"(I)t went from the sublime to the ridiculous when Challengers claimed that Rep. Greene’s use of the phrase “we won’t go silently into the night,” which came from a scene in the famous movie “Independence Day,” was just another example of such code words,” Bopp wrote, adding that the words were originally written by the poet Dylan Thomas.
“If you need a code breaker or a decoder ring to determine if a Member of Congress engaged in insurrection—she didn’t.”
The filings to State Office of Administrative Hearings Judge Charles Beaudrot follow a hearing last week in which Greene spent hours answering questions about her conduct and statements before and after the Jan. 6 attack. She has falsely claimed that Trump won the election and called for her supporters to oppose the installation of President Joe Biden, among many other statements.
Beaudrot will issue a recommendation, likely next week, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who will decide whether to remove Greene from the ballot. Any decision will likely be appealed to state courts, and a federal challenge on the legal issues is on hold pending Raffensperger’s ruling.
The battle is part of a broader strategy by Free Speech for People, an advocacy group using the 14th Amendment arguments in attempts to block reelections of Greene, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, both Arizona Republicans.
A federal judge in North Carolina rejected their attempt to block Cawthorn’s reelection, although that case is being appealed. Last week a Maricopa County, Arizona, judge rejected the efforts to stop Gosar and Biggs from running.