Marjorie Taylor Greene can’t spell or tell the truth. But those are not the reasons the name of the Republican representative from Georgia should be stricken from the 2022 midterm election ballot. Amid all the controversy, scandal, and bad theater surrounding Greene, a simple fact is indisputable: When the Republican Party’s most fanatical member of Congress gave aid and comfort to the January 6 insurrectionists, she violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
That violation is explicitly disqualifying, no matter what Greene and her defenders may claim.
Greene made plenty of headlines last week, as she attempted to defend her position on the ballot in an Atlanta courtroom, after voters from her congressional district sued to bar her from seeking a second term in the House. In a show of disrespect for the voters and the judicial process, Greene repeatedly claimed that she could not recall incendiary statements she had made and lawless actions she had taken. One of her most remarkable claims was a suggestion that she did not remember whether she had raised the prospect of defeated former President Donald Trump’s imposing martial law in order to prevent Democrat Joe Biden from assuming the presidency. That’s not the sort of proposal that anyone imagines a member of Congress would forget. But the Georgian chose to peddle the “I don’t remember” lie to cover for the fact that she was an active participant in scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
It didn’t take long for CNN to produce evidence that Greene had, indeed, discussed having Trump use the power of the presidency to launch a coup.
Records turned over by former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to congressional investigators revealed that on January 17, 2021, just three days before the end of Trump’s term, Greene texted a message to Meadows that read: “In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law.”
It’s “martial law,” not “Marshall.” But Greene’s point still came across, as her message also declared, with regard to Biden and the Democrats, “They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next.”
Greene’s spelling mishap, along with her refusal to provide truthful testimony in last week’s state hearing, confirms her ineptitude and her casual disregard for the rule of law. But those are not the incapacities that need to be proven in order to bar Greene from seeking reelection. Nor are her many false claims about the 2020 election in and of themselves disqualifying.
What disqualifies Greene are her specific violations of the standard outlined by the 14th Amendment. Her texts to Meadows, before and after January 6, 2021, mark her as an active participant in plotting to overturn the election. Even if she were able, with claims of memory loss, to obfuscate her wrongdoing in this regard, she can’t change her votes to reject electoral votes from states that backed Biden.
With those votes to reject Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, even though election officials, the courts, and duly certified electors had recognized Biden’s defeat of Trump, Greene embraced and acted upon the chief demand of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol at Trump’s behest. She did so on the evening of January 6, 2021, giving aid and comfort to the insurrectionists after their violent assault on the nation’s Capitol had created chaos that left five people dead and at least 138 police officers injured.
Some of Greene’s defenders have attempted to discredit efforts by constitutional lawyers with the group Free Speech for People to disqualify Republican members of the House by claiming that the representative has a First Amendment right to lie about the legitimacy of the election. But that’s not the point.
Like any American, Greene can mouth what Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refers to as “loony lies and conspiracy theories.” But as a member of Congress, who has sworn an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and to “bear true faith and allegiance” to that commitment, Greene had a responsibility to reject the demands of the insurrectionists. Instead, she embraced them.
It is her refusal to respect her oath of office, and the responsibilities that go with it, that places Greene in violation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states: “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.”
That violation is disqualifying. And it is a well-established principle of election law that individuals who are disqualified from serving—those who are too young, who are not citizens, who do not live in the states they seek to represent—cannot be listed at candidates for positions they cannot fill. Greene, as a violator of the 14th Amendment, has no place on this year’s primary or general election ballot. Nor, it should be noted, do other members of Congress who gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists on the evening on January 6.
Greene was one of 139 House Republicans who, along with eight Republican senators, supported overturning the election results even after the insurrectionists had stormed the Capitol. More than two years ago, in the immediate aftermath of those votes, US Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.) proposed H.Res 25, a measure calling on Congress to investigate and expel members of Congress who gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists. “The actions of the Republican lawmakers who tried to overturn the valid results of the 2020 elections must not only be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but I believe the members who attempted to disenfranchise voters and incited this violence must be removed from Congress,” said Bush.
That is the proper standard, and it should have been applied by Congress, which failed to consider Bush’s resolution. But it can now be applied by state election officials, as Free Speech for People president John Bonifaz has noted when informing those officials that “the mandate of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment must be followed.”