WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told a Georgia judge hearing an effort to block her from the ballot that she had urged people to join a "peaceful march" on Jan. 6, 2021, that turned into a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol.
A group of voters has brought a novel legal challenge to Greene's re-election bid, arguing that the supporter of former President Donald Trump, has violated a policy of the U.S. Constitution known as the "Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause" by supporting the Jan. 6 rally
The clause, passed after the U.S. 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.
"I was asking people to come for a peaceful march, which everyone is entitled to do," Greene said. "I was not asking them to actively engage in violence."
The voter challenge is being spearheaded by a group called Free Speech for People that advocates for campaign finance reform. A similar challenge backed by the same group against Republican U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn failed when a federal judge in North Carolina dismissed that suit on March 4.
The hearing before administrative law judge Charles R. Beaudrot is expected to last most of the day, and Beaudrot has not said whether he will issue a ruling on Friday.
Ron Fein, a lawyer for the voters seeking Greene's disqualification, said in his opening remarks that the congresswoman played an "important role" in instigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"In some cases, the mask falls and she shows us exactly what she intended," Fein said.
Greene is seeking re-election this year, with the Republican primary scheduled for May 24 and the general election on Nov. 8.
During media interviews, Greene has downplayed and justified the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters in their failed bid to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory. Greene this month said Democrats and journalists have pushed an "over-dramatization" of that day's events.
Greene's lawyer, James Bopp, argued during his opening remarks that removing her from the ballot would be both unfair to her and to voters in her conservative-leaning district. Greene is expected to appeal any ruling against her, and has already brought parallel litigation in U.S. federal court seeking to halt the administrative proceeding.
In a recent court filing, Greene's lawyers said she "vigorously denies that she aided and engaged in insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power."
"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 during his opening statement.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday ruled that the challenge to Greene's fitness for office can proceed.
Absentee ballots will start to be mailed on April 25.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)