If the Constitution means anything, Rep. Paul Gosar should be kicked off the ballot

·4 min read
Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Mark Finchem.
Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Mark Finchem.

Corrections and clarifications: A previous version of this column said that Rep. Andy Biggs was involved in planning the Jan. 6 protest. No evidence has been presented that Biggs played a role in the event.

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A trio of Arizona’s Trumpiest elected officials are in court this week, fighting for their political lives.

A group of voters filed lawsuits earlier this month, contending that U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and state Rep. Mark Finchem should be kicked off the ballot because of the parts they played in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

It seems like a long shot – downright unconstitutional, even, when you consider that none of the three have been convicted or even charged with a crime.

But then, when you read what the Constitution actually says …

Well, I’m wondering whether Gosar, in particular, might be having a Maalox moment.

A Georgia judge is allowing a similar challenge

A similar challenge to North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn was tossed out last month by a (Trump-appointed) federal judge. But on Tuesday, a federal judge in Georgia (who was appointed by Obama) allowed a challenge to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene go forward.

In Arizona, it’ll be up to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury to decide whether the legal challenges against our esteemed leaders should proceed.

Free Speech for People, the group behind the lawsuits, contends that Gosar, Biggs and Finchem are disqualified from the ballot based upon a provision of the Fourteenth Amendment adopted after the Civil War.

Here’s what it says:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

All three men have condemned the lawsuit as frivolous, but is it?

Gosar, Biggs and Finchem have ties to 'Stop the Steal'

All three have ties to Ali Alexander, the organizer of the Stop the Steal rallies, a guy who has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack aimed at stopping Joe Biden from becoming president.

Alexander has said that he, along with Reps. Gosar, Biggs and Mo Brooks of Alabama helped set the events of Jan. 6 in motion.

“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a since-deleted video posted online, “so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”

Biggs has denied meeting with Alexander and there's no evidence he was involved in planning any protest, though he was certainly part of the scheme to decertify the election on Jan. 6.

Finchem promoted the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal protest at the nation’s Capitol and was there as the Trump mob broke into the Capitol, hoping to stop Biden from becoming president. He even justified the attack, posting a picture as rioted stormed up the steps and noting, “what happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”

Gosar may have the biggest problem

But it’s Gosar who would seem to have the biggest problem.

The lawsuit claims Gosar encouraged people to plan rallies on Jan. 6, saying that then-President Donald Trump could provide them a “blanket pardon.” He also promoted the scheme to have Arizona's fake electors substituted for the real thing.

As rioters assembled outside the Capitol, both he and Biggs were inside, pushing to decertify the results of Arizona’s presidential election. Even as attackers were storming through the Capitol, Gosar stood on the House floor and outright lied as he objected to Arizona’s vote, declaring, “Over 400,000 mail-in ballots were altered, switched from President Trump to Vice President Biden or completely erased from President Trump's total.”

On one of the social media channel that catered to the far right, Gosar then justified the attack, posting a picture of attackers scaling the Capitol and “Americans are upset”.

Since then, Gosar has defended the Jan. 6 rioters, calling them “peaceful patriots” and chastising the FBI for seeking the public’s help in tracking them down.

He certainly gave 'aid and comfort' to rioters

It seems worth repeating here what the U.S. Constitution says.

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Whether or not Gosar “engaged in insurrection or rebellion”, he certainly gave “aid and comfort” to the rioters who broke into the Capitol to aid him in his attempt to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

It strikes me that we either abide by the Constitution or …

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Why Rep. Paul Gosar should be kicked off the 2022 ballot