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Fact Check: Marjorie Taylor Greene Ballot Fight Sputters to an End in Court

By Steve Heldon

(Bloomberg) — The courtroom drama is over for Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and her challenge to Georgia’s enforcement of a post-Civil War era ban on officeholders who support an insurrection.

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The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that Greene’s suit was moot, noting that she prevailed in a lawsuit that sought to stop her from running for re-election this year. But one judge signaled that she would have sided with the Republican lawmaker — offering a potential road map to other candidates fighting over their ability to serve.

Greene will be on the Nov. 8 election ballot, having successfully defended her eligibility against a challenge from Georgia voters and then winning the Republican primary.

The voters alleged that Greene played a key role in spurring the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, during which supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the building while Congress met to certify the 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won.

The voters sought to disqualify Greene through a state law that allows ballot eligibility challenges, and they invoked the 14th Amendment’s insurrection disqualification provision. A state administrative law judge found the voters failed to present enough evidence; state officials and courts refused to disturb that decision.

Meanwhile, a federal judge refused to grant Greene an injunction halting the state process, finding she was unlikely to win her broader challenges to the Georgia’s power to consider and potentially enforce the insurrection disqualification.

Greene appealed to the 11th Circuit and on Thursday a three-judge panel held the case was moot once she kept her spot on the ballot. The panel featured two nominees of former President Donald Trump, Judges Elizabeth Branch and Barbara Lagoa, and Judge Charles Wilson, who confirmed under former President Bill Clinton.

But Branch wrote separately to say that she thought Greene would have been entitled to an injunction because Georgia unconstitutionally “invaded Congress’s role to judge its members’ qualifications.”

Branch wrote that Georgia was wrongly trying to add a “substantive qualification” to Greene’s eligibility to run for office and that conflicted with an “escape hatch” in the 14th Amendment’s disqualification language allowing Congress to override it with a two-thirds majority vote of each chamber.

Greene’s lawyer James Bopp Jr. wrote that although the case was moot, “We, however, appreciate at least one judge who agreed with us on the merits.” Representatives of the Georgia secretary of state and attorney general’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People, an advocacy group that represented the Georgia voters, said they saw Greene’s inability to reverse the lower court ruling as a “major victory.” The district judge’s decision isn’t binding, but Bonifaz said it featured “important” findings that other judges and lawyers could cite in the future.

Bonifaz said that if Trump formally announces his intent to run for president in 2024, Free Speech for People would file disqualification challenges in multiple states.

In September, a local official in Otero County, New Mexico, became the first person associated with the Jan. 6 attack to be removed from office under the insurrection language. Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, was convicted of a misdemeanor crime for illegally being at the Capitol.

Earlier on Thursday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group involved in the Griffin case, announced that it would pursue disqualification challenges to keep Trump off the ballot again.

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