Marjorie Taylor Greene to testify as group seeks to disqualify her from running again
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
A court hearing is underway in Georgia right now. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is slated to take the stand, becoming the first member of Congress to testify in court about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Greene has denounced the violence that day, but a group of voters alleges that she backed the insurrection, and they plan to argue before a special judge that a provision of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution makes her ineligible for office. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler joins us now. Stephen, can you explain this hearing and the grounds for this challenge to Marjorie Taylor Greene's spot on the ballot?
STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: So Georgia has a law that gives voters a way to challenge the eligibility of candidates running for office. It's an administrative procedure that goes to a special administrative law judge who then recommends findings to the secretary of state, who then makes that ultimate decision. Now, typically, A, we've seen this used when people don't live in the district they want to represent or don't have other proper qualifications to be eligible to serve, and typically, the person being challenged is the one that has to prove they're eligible. Now, in this case, the administrative law judge says the ones challenging Marjorie Taylor Greene have to prove she should be disqualified and prove why they claim she violated a section of the 14th Amendment that bars people who have, quote, "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the U.S."
MARTINEZ: Now, hundreds of people have been charged in connection with January 6. Congresswoman Greene, though, has not. So what's the goal, then?
FOWLER: Well, this challenge, filed by a group of voters and a nonpartisan group called Free Speech for People, will aim to question Greene about things related to January 6, objections to the Electoral College results, statements she made calling it, quote, "our 1776 moment" and other things they say helped to plan the insurrection. There's comments like this one.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Just finished with our meetings here at the White House this afternoon. We got a - had a great planning session for our January 6 objection. We aren't going to let this election be stolen by Joe Biden and the Democrats.
FOWLER: Now, we've been told Congresswoman Greene will testify under oath, and the challengers hope to glean new information related to the Capitol attack that could be disqualifying for her or other Republicans. It's also the first time we've seen a Republican lawmaker publicly testify and answer questions about what went down before, during and after the insurrection. And cynically, most everyone comes out a winner here. Democrats have been using Greene's extremist language to attack Republicans and paint the party in a negative light. Greene, who is very popular with pro-Trump conservatives, gets to attack Democrats in the media, like she did on a far-right outlet earlier this week.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GREENE: This is a precedent - sets a very dangerous precedent. I cannot believe that I'm being forced to do this. I can't believe this judge has not thrown this case out and seen it for what it is, as nothing but a big, funded scam for the Democrats trying to control our elections.
FOWLER: And even former President Trump has weighed in, using the hearing as an opportunity to attack incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in his attempts to defeat them in a primary. Unlike Greene, these two Republicans resisted his push to overturn the 2020 election results.
MARTINEZ: So what kinds of outcomes can be expected? I mean, is it actually likely that Greene would be removed from the ballot?
FOWLER: The short answer - no. Greene sued in federal court to try and block this administrative law process, saying it violated her rights, but a judge ruled that the administrative law process was allowed to continue. But it's still going to be an incredibly high burden to make this unprecedented judgment Greene should be struck from the ballot. Other efforts against Republican members of Congress, like Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, have failed. A Trump-appointed judge there said that section of the 14th Amendment is narrowly written to bar former Confederates from holding office and is not applicable today. And remember, A; the judge in this case writes a recommendation which goes to the secretary of state, which is Brad Raffensperger, who's facing his own Trump-backed primary challenge, and in-person early voting beginning in a couple of weeks means he's unlikely to rock the boat and remove Greene while his own political future hangs in the balance.
Now, Greene represents one of the most conservative House districts in the country, so even if she were to be removed from the ballot, it's still a safely Republican seat. And this negative attention will likely not hurt her in a primary, either. She's a top fundraiser and wildly popular across the country with the pro-Trump base.
MARTINEZ: Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting. Stephen, thanks.
FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.