The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Greene says she can’t remember if she urged Trump to impose martial law

The congresswoman appeared in court as part of a lawsuit seeking to block her reelection bid

On April 22, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) testified in a case seeking to disqualify her from running for reelection for her role on Jan. 6. (Video: The Washington Post)
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ATLANTA — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, testifying Friday about her alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as part of a case seeking to disqualify her from seeking reelection, said she could not remember whether she urged President Donald Trump to impose martial law as a way to remain in power.

“I don’t recall,” Greene (R-Ga.) said in response to questioning by an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case.

“So you’re not denying you did it?” asked the attorney, Andrew G. Celli Jr. “You just don’t remember?”

“I don’t remember,” Greene replied.

The exchange marked one of dozens of times during Friday’s hearing that Greene said she could not recall her tweets or statements related to the attack. Greene’s appearance in an Atlanta courtroom represented one of the first times a member of Congress has been questioned under oath about the Capitol attack.

The case against Greene was brought by Free Speech for People, a campaign-finance reform organization, on behalf of a group of voters from Greene’s district. The Free Speech group alleges that Greene, who has become a lightning rod for controversy and has gained a reputation as one of the Republican Party’s most hard-right members, helped facilitate the ransacking of the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

Greene should be knocked off the ballot, the group argues, under the 14th Amendment, which bars those who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from seeking federal office.

As she entered the room at the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings on Friday morning, Greene was greeted with cheers and applause from the audience, made up mostly of Greene supporters. Her fellow House member Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was present as well.

In his opening statement, Ron Fein, Free Speech for People’s legal director, said that “the leaders of this insurrection, of whom there were a number, were among us — on Facebook, Twitter and corners of social media that would make your stomach hurt.”

“The evidence will show that Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of them,” Fein said.

Greene attorney James Bopp Jr. argued that Free Speech for People wants to “deny the right to vote to the thousands of people in the 14th District of Georgia by having Greene removed from the ballot.”

“Voters have a right to vote for the candidate of their choice unless there is very compelling legal — not rhetorical — justification for that,” he said.

Bopp accused Free Speech for People of trying to “hold against [Greene] First Amendment-protected speech” for her comments about the Jan. 6 attack. He argued that the 14th Amendment was meant to bar any “direct, overt act of insurrection to overthrow the United States government,” such as the Confederacy marshaling troops.

And during his questioning of Greene, he sought to portray the Georgia Republican as one of the many victims of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, rather than one of its supporters.

“Yes, I was a victim of the riot that day,” Greene said.

In an interview, Fein suggested the case could “set a national precedent for other members of Congress and officials who broke their oath and helped the insurrection, and including, if he chooses to run again in 2024, the former president, Donald Trump.”

Trump weighed in on the case Thursday afternoon in a statement criticizing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — both Republicans — for allowing “a horrible thing to happen to a very popular Republican.” Trump lamented that Greene, one of his closest allies in Congress, “is now going through hell in their attempt to unseat her, just more of an election mess in Georgia.”

Since his 2020 loss in the state, Trump has aggressively spread baseless accusations about the state’s election systems and lambasted GOP legislators who did not acquiesce to his false claims. Trump has endorsed primary challengers to both Kemp and Raffensperger.

Republican former senator David Perdue, the Trump-endorsed candidate who is seeking to unseat Kemp, tweeted in support of Greene on Friday afternoon.

“What is happening to @RepMTG is shameful and wrong!” Perdue said. “I’m proud to stand with her in this fight against the establishment.”

Analysis: Dissecting the bid to disqualify Marjorie Taylor Greene for insurrection

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled Monday that the case against Greene could proceed, a ruling that stands in contrast with others in lawsuits against members of Congress over their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack. Free Speech for People levied a similar case against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), but he successfully sued in federal court to block the proceedings.

The organization has also filed lawsuits against Reps. Paul A. Gosar and Andy Biggs, both Arizona Republicans. Maricopa Superior Court dismissed those lawsuits Friday.

Free Speech for People called two witnesses. The first, Indiana University constitutional law professor Gerard Magliocca, has written extensively about congressional amnesty and the 14th Amendment

The group’s attorney, Celli, then questioned Greene over a period of more than three hours.

Throughout the hearing, Bopp repeatedly interrupted to lodge objections against the plaintiffs’ questioning. That prompted Celli to declare at one point, “You have a standing objection, Mr. Bopp, to everything in the world.”

During the questioning, Greene declined to say whether unlawfully interfering with the counting of electoral votes in a presidential election would make someone “an enemy of the Constitution.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if it defines it that way,” she said.

Greene also said during Friday’s hearing that she believed Biden had lost the 2020 election to Trump but claimed it was “not accurate” that she wanted Congress not to certify Biden as the winner.

In the days before the Jan. 6 attack, Greene said, “We aren’t going to let this election be stolen by Joe Biden and the Democrats.” She was among the 147 Republicans who voted in support of at least one objection to counting Biden’s electoral votes.

There is no evidence that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 presidential race.

Greene also was repeatedly asked on Friday about her Twitter posts and past statements, including several in which she alluded to the use of violence against her political opponents, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

On Friday, Greene repeatedly said she did not recall many of her past statements or was not certain who may have “liked” certain posts using her account.

Greene was asked about a now-deleted 2019 video in which she called on supporters to “flood the Capitol building, flood all the government buildings” and feel free to use violence “if we have to” to get the federal government to address their “huge list of grievances.”

“We can do it peacefully,” Greene said in the video. “We can. I hope we don’t have to do it the other way. I hope not. But we should feel like we will if we have to, because we are the American people.”

Greene said she did not recall making the statement.

The plaintiffs also questioned Greene about her repeated references to “1776” ahead of the Jan. 6 attack, asking whether she was aware that extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and others had used it as “a code word for violence to occur” that day. Greene said she had “no idea” that the term was used in that manner.

Both parties are expected to file additional briefs in the case by next Thursday. Judge Charles Beaudrot will make a recommendation, and then Raffensperger, the secretary of state, will make a decision about Greene’s eligibility to run.

In his closing argument, Celli said that Greene “was one of several leaders who gathered the kindling, who created the conditions, who made it possible for there to be an explosion of violence at the Capitol on January 6th.”

“And then, she dropped the match,” Celli said. “And now she comes into this courtroom and she says she’s surprised and appalled that a fire occurred.”