Republican US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has testified she still believes Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, but that she did not advocate violence when Trump supporters overran the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Greene’s testimony in a Georgia courtroom on Friday came in a challenge by voters trying to block her from seeking re-election for her role in the insurrection.
“I was asking people to come for a peaceful march, which is what everyone is entitled to do under their First Amendment [rights],” Greene testified, referring to the amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression.
“But I was not asking them to actively engage in violence or any type of action,” she said.
In the novel legal challenge, voters allege Greene violated a provision of the US Constitution known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause”.
The clause, adopted after the US Civil War in the 1860s, prohibits politicians from running for Congress if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort” to the nation’s enemies.
Greene was among several US politicians who supported Trump’s false claims the 2020 presidential election had been stolen and objected to Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory on January 6.
The voter challenge is being spearheaded by a group called Free Speech for People, which advocates for campaign finance reform.
Greene is seeking re-election this year in her conservative-leaning district in rural Georgia, with the Republican primary scheduled for May 24 and the general election on November 8.
Ron Fein, a lawyer for the voter group, argued in opening remarks that the congresswoman had played an “important role” in instigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. Lawyers offered as evidence tweets Greene had sent calling on people to “#fightforTrump”.
“In some cases, the mask falls, and she shows us exactly what she intended,” Fein said.
Under questioning, Greene repeatedly said she could not remember who she spoke to or what they talked about in the days leading up to the January 6 riot.
James Bopp, a prominent constitutional lawyer representing Greene, said the legal challenge threatened Greene’s right to free speech.
“Fundamentally, First Amendment rights are at stake – not only the right to vote, as I’ve mentioned, or the right to run for office,” Bopp said.
Removing her from the ballot would be both unfair to her and voters in her district, he added.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 3, 2021
Greene maintained in her testimony on Friday that the 2020 election had been fraudulent, that Biden did not win, and that investigations of alleged voter fraud are continuing. US courts have repeatedly rejected those claims as without merit.
In their complaint, the voters alleged Greene helped plan the march by Trump supporters on the Capitol that was “substantially likely to lead to the attack, and otherwise voluntarily aided the insurrection”.
Following Friday’s hearing, administrative law Judge Charles R Beaudrot is expected to provide a recommendation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who will decide whether Greene is eligible to stand for re-election.
In a statement on Thursday, Trump blamed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Raffensperger, both Republicans, for allowing the challenge against Greene, saying she is “going through hell in their attempt to unseat her”.