Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., the far-right freshman notorious for her baseless and inflammatory conspiracy theories, should not be disqualified for re-election over her alleged role in inciting the Capitol riot, a state judge ruled on Friday.
The decision, handed down by State Judge Charles Beaudrot, an administrative law judge, was announced weeks after her hearing last month, when the state lawmaker was questioned over her remarks and text messages leading up to January 6. Beaudrot ruled that the defendants "have produced insufficient evidence to show that Rep. Greene 'engaged' in that insurrection after she took the oath of office on January 3, 2021."
"Her public statements and heated rhetoric may well have contributed to the environment that ultimately led to the Invasion," Beaudrot said. "But expressing constitutionally-protected political views, no matter how aberrant they may be, prior to being sworn in as a Representative is not engaging in insurrection under the 14th Amendment."
The decision originally stems from a lawsuit filed by a group of voters who challenged Greene's eligibility for re-election over her alleged role in stoking the insurrection. During her last hearing, the voters' defense attorney adduced a text exchange, first reported by CNN, in which the Republican lawmaker asked Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to have the former president declare "Marshall law" in response to Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election.
In a TV interview a day before the Capitol attack, Greene also claimed the following day would be "our 1776 moment." Beaudrot said in his ruling that this comment was "the only conduct" that may have thrown her eligibility into question. However, the remark, he added, did not ultimately establish grounds for disqualification because "it is impossible for the Court to conclude from this vague, ambiguous statement that Rep. Greene was complicit in a months-long enterprise to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power without making an enormous unsubstantiated leap."
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Free Speech For People, the liberal advocacy group representing the defendants, told CNN that the decision "betrays the fundamental purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment's Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause and gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections."
Meanwhile, Greene's lawyer, James Bopp Jr., told the outlet that Beaudrot's ruling marks "a great day for the First Amendment and a great day for our democracy."
"There's a bevy of well-funded Democrat lawyers behind this political smear ... they are trying to win elections by disqualifying members of Congress," he added.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, accepted the judge's findings on Friday, according to the Associated Press. The defendants now have ten days to appeal their case.