Bloomberg Government
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Login
BROWSE
Bloomberg Government
Welcome
Login
Advanced Search Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Taylor Greene Hearing Long on Theatrics, Short on Answers (1)

April 22, 2022, 8:03 PMUpdated: April 22, 2022, 9:39 PM

More than three hours into a hearing into whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) supported an insurrection, an attorney representing Georgia voters seeking to block her from reelection played a scene from “Independence Day,” the 25-year-old movie about aliens attacking Washington.

Attorney Andrew Celli said he wanted to show that Greene stole her call for supporters to “not go quietly into the night,” from the actor playing the president in the movie. The actor was rallying fighter pilots against the aliens, Celli said, one of several references he made to the United States’ violent fight for independence from Great Britain in 1776.

Greene used similar language when she called for supporters to staunchly oppose certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

“I don’t view courtrooms and politics as Hollywood like you do ... that is not the first person, I’m sure, that said that and won’t be the last,” Greene told Celli.

It was illustrative of how the Georgia state administrative hearing veered off course, with opposing attorneys clashing over evidence, the judge trying to push the proceedings along and Greene denying she advocated violence in the runup to January 6. Little of the evidence went to the heart of the matter: Whether her calls to protest the election results and her opposition to “transfer power peacefully” are protected free speech, or constitute support for an insurrection against the United States that could invoke a Constitutional ban on insurrection supporters holding public office.

When the hearing concluded, Judge Charles Beaudrot ordered both sides to file all legal briefs and motions to him by Thursday, and promised to expedite his ruling.

Greene spent much of the day saying she couldn’t recall specific events, including whether she advocated advising President Donald Trump to invoke martial law. At that point, an unidentified lawyer claiming to represent Trump invoked executive privilege hoping to stop Greene from talking about any conversation. Beaudrot allowed the question, and Greene again said, “I can’t recall.”

Most Powerful Witness

The hearing is based on a complaint by Georgia voters who argued that the 14th Amendment, which prohibited those who fought against the U.S. during the Civil War from holding office, applies to any member of Congress who supported the Jan. 6 assault.

Lawyers for the advocacy group Free Speech for People have brought similar claims against Republicans who they and their clients say supported an insurrection. Last week a federal judge denied Greene’s bid to stop the hearing.

Ron Fein, one of the lawyers representing Georgia voters, said in his opening statement that Greene’s previous statements are enough to prove their case.

“The most powerful witness ... is Marjorie Taylor Greene herself,” Fein said.

Celli focused heavily on Greene’s taped statement days before the Capitol assault telling supporters they can’t allow government “to just transfer power peacefully like Joe Biden wants.” He said that proves Greene advocated violence.

“She stated her opposition to a peaceful transfer of power, and it was a stunning statement,” Celli said in closing arguments. “This is a person who is a federal official ... who sat down in front of her camera and told her viewers they can’t accept a peaceful transfer of power.”

Celli, quizzing Greene, also brought up statements she made as early as February 2019, almost two years before she took office, in which she accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being a traitor because of her stance on immigration. He also homed in on statements Greene made in the weeks before she won her race in the 2020 election.

Celli argued that she was using code words such as “1776" and other terms to reference the United States’s Revolutionary War battles. At one point, Beaudrot became exasperated when told the statements were from 2019 and told Celli to move on.

Stolen Election

Greene used her time on the witness stand to repeat her false claim that Trump won the election and said that when the violence started on Jan. 6, she thought the rioters were from Antifa or Black Lives Matter.

Attorney James Bopp, Jr. representing Greene, argued that every statement she made was supported by her First Amendment rights, that his client never advocated violence and that the entire proceeding was based on an incorrect reading of the 14th Amendment, Section 3.

He cited several Supreme Court cases in which even violent statements by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups were ruled valid political speech, and argued that attorneys for the voters produced no evidence that Greene called for violence.

“We have now seen on full display, full display, the dangers of construing words way beyond their meaning to allow political opponents to smear their opposition in a court of law,” Bopp argued.

In closing arguments, Celli argued that once Greene went from being a private citizen to a sitting member of Congress by taking the oath of office on Jan. 3, 2021, her status changed.

“That status means Ms. Greene can’t just say anything she wants, that she could have said as a private citizen,” Celli said.

He argued he only had to prove to prove that Greene took the oath of office, that an insurrection happened, and that Greene, “having taken that oath, engaged in insurrection, prompted it …. helped bring it into fruition.”

“Those are the three elements we came here today prepared to prove and those are the three elements that we have proved,” he said.

(Updates throughout from closing arguments. )

To contact the reporter on this story: John Holland at jholland1@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com