The Cowboys for Trump founder is the first politician to be removed from office on January 6. Could others be next?

A New Mexico judge ruled on Tuesday that Couy Griffin, Otero County Commissioner and founder of the group Cowboys for Trump, was disqualified from holding public office because of his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. .

The historic decision marks the first time an elected official has been removed from office for participating in or supporting the Capitol Riot. It is also the first time a judge at any level has found that the events leading up to and on January 6 – when a violent mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol temporarily preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election – amounted to “insurrection.”

Some legal experts predicted Tuesday’s decision could have serious implications for other current or former officials — including Trump himself — who were involved on Jan. 6 and may be hoping to return to government.

Couy Griffin rides a horse on Fifth Avenue on May 1, 2020 in New York City. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

“If this holds up on appeal, then it’s an important precedent for the next election cycle,” said Gerard Magliocca, a constitutional scholar and professor of law at Indiana University. Magliocca told Yahoo News that “the most obvious way it works is if Mr. Griffin is disqualified for what he did on January 6, why isn’t Donald Trump disqualified for what he did? did on January 6, what was more?

In his 49-page decision, State District Court Judge Francis Mathew ruled that Griffin, who was convicted earlier this year of trespassing on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, should be immediately removed from office. office and barred from holding any future elected state office. or at the federal level.

“He was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States… [and then] committed to this insurrection after being sworn in,” Mathew wrote. “The Court finds that the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol and the planning, mobilization and incitement surrounding it constituted ‘insurrection’ within the meaning of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Couy Griffin speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington.

Couy Griffin speaks to reporters in federal court in Washington on June 17. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)

Mathew cited a rarely invoked constitutional provision that sought to bar members of the Confederacy from holding public office after the Civil War. It states that anyone who “has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against it, or aided or comforted its enemies” after “having previously taken an oath” to “uphold the Constitution” is prohibited from holding “any office , civil or civil”. military, under the United States or under any state. The provision does not require a public servant to be criminally convicted for participating in an insurrection in order for them to be disqualified from performing their duties.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the last time Congress invoked Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was in 1919, when it was used “to refuse to seat a socialist congressman accused of having aided and comforted Germany during the First World War”.

More recently, progressive groups have unsuccessfully sought to use the provision in other lawsuits filed in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin that sought to block Republican lawmakers accused of supporting Jan. 6 rioters. to continue to perform their duties.

A crowd of Trump supporters battle with law enforcement as they storm the Capitol.

Trump supporters fight with members of law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

In May, a federal appeals court ruled in a lawsuit against Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R.C., who spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, which insurgents could be banned from performing their duties. However, the decision came after Cawthorn had already lost its primary, rendering the case effectively moot.

In a separate case challenging the candidacy of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a Georgia state judge ruled that the Jan. 6 riot constituted an insurrection, but the challengers had “produced insufficient evidence to to show that Representative Greene” was engaged in this insurrection. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a state court has dismissed lawsuits seeking to prevent Trump-allied Republican Representatives Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar from voting.

Unlike those lawmakers, who tried to overturn the 2020 election results from inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, Griffin’s presence among the rioting crowd outside made him a slightly easier target for defenders seeking to hold those responsible accountable for their role in the attack.

Donald K. Sherman, senior vice president and chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), suggested that Tuesday’s decision on New Mexico “provides a roadmap” for future challenges for officials. who could have encouraged or supported the rioters without physically storming the Capitol themselves.

Sherman and other CREW attorneys discussed the judge’s decision — and its potential implications for other officials — on Twitter Spaces on Tuesday afternoon. CREW represented three New Mexico residents who filed a civil lawsuit against Griffin in March, seeking that he be removed from office for his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In particular, Sherman pointed to Mathew’s conclusion that Griffin “helped the insurgency even if he did not personally engage in violence”.

The judge’s decision, Sherman said, “makes it clear” that “the Constitution’s disqualification clause applies to the events of January 6. … And the mobilization and support of January 6, whether individuals were violent or not on this day, was an insurrection under the Constitution.

“There are certainly other members of government and outside of government who would qualify as insurgents under the legal precedent,” he said.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the Capitol.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the Capitol. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

Griffin, an ardent conspiracy theorist and founder of Cowboys for Trump, a group of riding supporters of the former president, was one of three elected commissioners for Otero County in New Mexico since 2019. Within weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, he promoted the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, including as a speaker on a multi-city bus tour organized by Women for America First, one of the groups who coordinated Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6.

In March, Griffin became the second defendant in the Justice Department’s extensive Jan. 6 investigation to stand trial for his involvement in the riot. He was acquitted of disorderly conduct but was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of trespassing on Capitol grounds. In June, a DC federal judge sentenced him to 14 days in jail with time served and a year of supervised release for the trespassing conviction, which he said he planned to appeal.

Griffin, who said he plans to run for sheriff when his commission term ends later this year, has continued to promote unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in his role as county commissioner and has declined to certify the results of his county’s primary election in June. .

“That’s why you don’t want the insurgents to stay in power because they will continue to use their position to undermine democracy,” Sherman said Tuesday.

Griffin represented himself at a brief bench trial last month after the Otero County Commission denied a request to fund his personal legal representation in the lawsuit. During the trial, in which attorneys for CREW, along with a team of New Mexico-based attorneys, called multiple witnesses to testify about his actions on Jan. 6, Griffin criticized Mathew for refusing to file the case. case and insisted he was at the Capitol as a peaceful protester.

However, Mathew found that Griffin always acted in support of the insurrection, even without engaging in violence. In his ruling, the judge wrote that Griffin not only helped “mobilize and inspire thousands across the country to join the mob” in Washington, but that “by joining the mob and entering restricted grounds of the Capitol, Mr. Griffin helped delay the Congressional election-certification process”.

Sherman said this particular aspect of Mathew’s decision could have “significant implications for any current or former or aspiring … [officeholder] who took part in the uprising.

Griffin did not respond to a request for comment, but he reportedly told CNN after the ruling Tuesday that he was ordered to clear his office at the county commissioners office. He told Reuters he planned to appeal Mathew’s decision.

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