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Associated Press

Feb. 1, 2021, 4:27 p.m. EST

Freshman congresswoman from Georgia poses challenge to Republican unity in Biden era

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans have a Marjorie Taylor Greene problem. Again.

Before she joined the House this month, Greene supported Facebook posts that advocated violence against Democrats and the FBI. One suggested shooting the chamber’s top Democrat in the head. In response to a post raising the prospect of hanging former President Barack Obama, Greene responded that the “stage is being set.”

Some Republicans condemned the activity.

The Georgia Republican has expressed support for QAnon conspiracy theories, which focus on the belief that top Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking, Satan worship and cannibalism. Facebook (NAS:FB) videos surfaced last year showing Greene had expressed racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views. Top Republicans denounced her at the time, hoping to block her from capturing the GOP nomination in her reliably red congressional district in northwest Georgia.

The opposition faded, however, when Greene won the primary and was essentially guaranteed a seat in Congress. By the time she was sworn into office, Greene had been invited for a ride with President Donald Trump on Air Force One.

See: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gets 12-hour Twitter suspension for ‘multiple’ violations

Republican leaders are now confronting a conundrum of their own making. The party largely embraced Greene after she won the primary, making it harder for them to distance themselves from her now, especially when many of her views were already well-known at the time they fell in line behind her.

The dynamic raises questions about the GOP’s ability — or interest — in moving past Trump-style politics after the former president spent years advancing conspiracy theories of his own and later declared QAnon adherents patriotic Americans who were in his corner.

“Trump didn’t hijack the party — the party became Donald Trump,” said Stuart Stevens, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a conservative group that staunchly opposes Trump. “They’re radicals.”

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, told MSNBC on Thursday that he was hopeful that, while Trump may remain an important figure in the party for a time, he is not the GOP’s central figure. Corker said he hopes never to see Trump at the top of the party ticket in the future.

CNN reported on Greene’s Facebook posts, which have since been deleted. She tweeted responses before the story was posted that didn’t dispute their authenticity or disavow them, saying instead: “Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views.”

Still, there’s greater pressure on political leaders to address extremism after a pro-Trump mob staged a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez announced Wednesday night that he was readying a resolution to expel Greene from Congress because of her past social-media activity.

In a statement to Axios, a spokesman for House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called the posts “deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them.”

It’s unclear when that conversation may happen. McCarthy planned to fly to Florida on Thursday to meet with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort, reportedly at McCarthy’s request.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York joined fellow Democrat Gomez in expressing the view that McCarthy is unlikely to display a firm hand should that promised conversation with Green come to pass.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the Greene posts “disgusting,” adding that they have “no place in our party” and “should be looked into.”

McDaniel also spoke to a QAnon issue that goes beyond Greene.

“I think it’s really important, after what’s just happened in our country, that we have some self-reflection on the violence that’s continuing to erupt,” McDaniel said in an interview. “I think QAnon is beyond fringe. I think it’s dangerous. We should be looking at that and making sure we don’t mince words and when we say that we can’t support groups that are initiating violence.”

The FBI has called QAnon a domestic-terrorism threat and the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the potential for lingering violence from extremists enraged by President Joe Biden’s election and emboldened by the attack on the Capitol.

See: QAnon supporters losing trust in ‘the plan’ with Biden inaugurated, Trump in Florida and no ‘storm’ materializing

Greene’s situation is somewhat reminiscent of that of former Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican who was stripped of his committee assignments by his own party’s House leadership after expressing support for white supremacists in 2019.

National GOP groups shunned King in the party’s Iowa primary, and he was defeated, but he steadfastly maintained that he was adhering to his constituents’ beliefs more than most of the rest of his party.

“I’ve always told you the truth,” King said in an online message to his district’s voters the day of the primary. “Whatever they might say about Steve King, I have never let you down.”

There was no immediate word on whether Greene might face a similar sanction as King.

Greene’s online agitation, meanwhile, goes beyond past Facebook posts — including making a video that falsely suggested the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people was staged to advance gun-control legislation.

Since winning her congressional seat, Greene has sought to capitalize on her growing national notoriety with conservatives, spending more than $206,000 to lure in new donors through Parler, a social-media site favored by Trump supporters and right-wing extremists.

The site was effectively booted from the internet following the mayhem at the Capitol after Amazon (NAS:AMZN) , which hosted the site, decided Parler wasn’t doing enough to police users who incited violence. Before its removal, Greene’s spending super-charged her presence on Parler, with some of her posts reaching millions of users, according to an analysis of data by the Associated Press.

She frequently attacked Democrats and railed against coronavirus pandemic safety measures, like mask-wearing. Greene also called on Congress to overturn the results of Biden’s election.

“I’m tired of seeing weak-kneed Republicans play defense. I will go on the attack,” Greene said in a Nov. 18 post. “It’s our 1776 moment!” she posted the day before the mob overran the Capitol.

“You have members of Congress who do not feel safe at work right now because of the violent attempted coup,” said Melissa Ryan, CEO of consultancy group Card Strategies, which researches online disinformation and right-wing extremism. “And then you have politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene who are not just stoking the fear, but using it as a fundraising tool.”

Greene is now texting supporters, seeking to raise money for her attempt to “impeach Biden.” The fine print of her solicitations, however, shows that any funds she takes in will instead be routed to her campaign account.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and House speaker, called particular attention to Greene’s having mocked victims and survivors of the Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas school massacres in Connecticut and Florida, respectively, and then going on to be picked by Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Pelosi suggested that the Republican leadership be queried as to where Greene had displayed conduct appropriate to a member of the U.S. Congress.

MarketWatch contributed.

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