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For the First Time in 150 Years, an Elected Official Was Removed From Office for Participating in Insurrection

A white man (Couy Griffin) dressed like a cowboy, rides a horse in downtown Manhattan.

A New Mexico judge has ordered that Couy Griffin be removed from his position as a county commissioner due to his participation in the January 6 Capitol attack. Griffin—who is also the co-founder of Cowboys for Trump, seen above riding a horse through Manhattan in May of 2020 to protest then-mayor Bill De Blasio’s COVID-19 response for some reason—is out of office effective immediately.

This decision has huge implications not just for the county or even the state, but potentially nationwide for a ton of Republican lawmakers at all levels of government. According to Citizens for Ethics, this is the first time since 1869 that a sitting lawmaker has been removed from office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment—also known as the Disqualification Clause—which states no one who engages in insurrection can hold public office.

Voters in North Carolina tried to use that clause to keep Rep. Madison Cawthorn from running for re-election. That bid was unsuccessful (though thankfully he lost his 2022 primary election so he won’t be returning anyway), as was a similar suit brought against Marjorie Taylor Greene. That there is now modern precedent to remove someone from office under this clause seems like a pretty huge deal.

Also huge is the fact that this is the first time a court has officially declared the events of January 6th an insurrection. Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with their participation in that day’s events, encompassing a wide range of alleged crimes, but “insurrection” hasn’t been one of them.

As with the lawsuits against Cawthorn and Greene, the complaint against Griffin was brought by a group of voters, and supported by a number of law firms and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW writes of the decision:

An eyewitness to Griffin’s behavior testified that Griffin also took on a leadership position within the mob at the Capitol on January 6th. Videos of Griffin’s speeches en route to Washington, DC for the “Stop the Steal“ rally showed Griffin’s willingness to stop, by any means necessary, a Biden presidency. In the days after the attack, Griffin continued to defend the insurrection, boasted about his involvement, and suggested a possible repeat of it in the future. Following a federal indictment for his behavior, he was convicted of breaching and occupying restricted Capitol grounds.

“January 6, 2021 was a dark day in our history. The court’s ruling today is a historic moment for our country. Mr. Griffin’s removal and bar from holding office again is a step towards obtaining justice and restoring the rule of law,” said Dodd Law Office, LLC President Christopher Dodd.

“The Court’s decision to remove and bar Mr. Griffin from public office represents a crucial step toward restoring the rule of law in our country and protecting our democracy from future attack,” said the Law Office of Amber Fayerberg, LLC Founder Amber Fayerberg.

(image: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.