One of the most troubling aspects of the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection has been the utter lack of accountability for the 57 elected Republican officials who participated in the riot. A judge blocked the attempt to prevent North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn from gaining re-election, and figures like Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano (currently the Republican nominee for governor) not only have dodged any consequences, but were positively elevated by GOP voters.
A state judge in New Mexico may have finally helped shift that dynamic when dealing with Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin, who not only was a front-line participant in the riot, but then refused to certify 2022 election results in his county, demanding a phony “audit” of the 2020 results instead. However, after Griffin was convicted in federal court for entering the Capitol, First District Judge Francis Mathew on Monday banned Griffin from office, calling his attempts to rewrite history about Jan. 6 “putting lipstick on a pig.”
In the 49-page ruling, Mathew found that Griffin was disqualified from office under the 14th Amendment, which forbids any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government and Constitution to which they earlier swore an oath from holding any federal, state, or local office. He rejected Griffin’s claims that his disqualification would “subvert the will of the people,” adding that Griffin “overlooks that his own insurrectionary conduct on January 6 sought to subvert the results of a free and fair election, which would have disenfranchised millions of voters.”
Moreover, Mathew wrote, Griffin’s “attempts to sanitize his actions are without merit and contrary to the evidence,” and “his characterization of his actions and the events of January 6, 2021, are not credible and amounted to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.”
Griffin, the founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” first came to national attention in 2020, when Donald Trump retweeted a video of him declaring to a crowd, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” He subsequently retreated slightly, claiming he didn’t mean the words literally, telling Will Sommer of The Daily Beast that he “could've chosen a different verbiage.” Then he went on to describe the two options facing Democratic officials enforcing pandemic-related closures and stay-at-home orders—hanging or firing squad.
In a Facebook video he posted in July 2020, Griffin ranted about the news that the NFL planned to play a civil-rights anthem at some of its games:
They want to destroy our country. They want to talk about playing a Black national anthem before football games? I got a better idea, why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on a (sic) old beat-out dirt lot and you can play your Black national anthem there. How about that? This is America, we play the National Anthem in America today.
Later that summer, Griffin organized a “New Mexico Unite” protest in Clovis featuring a regional militia group, an event embraced by state Republican organizations. Griffin’s event description on Facebook explained that “we are sick of being held hostage. we are having a PEACEFUL protest. We are Against Voter suppression, Mail in voting and voter fraud! time to fight for New Mexico!”
As Mathew’s ruling details, Griffin was heavily involved in the political agitation and organizing leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Shortly after the November 2020 election, he attended Stop the Steal rallies in New Mexico alongside the militia group he had promoted. He also was a featured speaker in a multicity bus tour arranged by Women for America First, one of the key Stop the Steal organizers, that recruited Trumpists to attend the Jan. 6 rallies.
It noted that Griffin compared the attempts to prevent Trump’s removal from office to the famous battle at The Alamo while speaking to an audience in The Woodlands, Texas. “This is a battle and a war we cannot lose,” Griffin said.
Similarly, Griffin told a crowd in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that a war was underway with “the elitist, gross, wicked, vile people,” adding, “We got to get our country back.”
Two days before the insurrection, Griffin told a crowd in Atlanta that violence was likely at the event, and called on “men from across our nation to come to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, because it might be a battle.”
After Griffin’s conviction on misdemeanor charges for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6 earlier this year, he was sentenced to 14 days in federal prison and fined $3,000. Shortly afterward, a group of New Mexico citizens filed a lawsuit demanding his removal from office, represented by attorneys Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and two New Mexico-based law firms.
During the two-day trial earlier this month, plaintiffs’ attorneys said they proved that the Jan. 6 events met the definition of an insurrection, and that moreover Griffin had been a leading participant.
“Non-violent members of the mob, including Griffin, camouflaged violent members of the mob contributed to law enforcement being overwhelmed by a ‘sea of potential threats,'” plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Goldberg and seven other attorneys wrote in the closing. “Griffin did more than just join the mob: he incited, encouraged, and helped normalize the mob’s violence on January 6.”
Griffin represented himself. His written closing argued that the plaintiffs “missed their mark” and had not proven the Capitol siege was an insurrection. He insisted he wasn’t trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, but was just trying to lobby Vice Preisdent Mike Pence to “roll that vote back to the states for certification.”
“All well within the law and well inside the duties of those legislators involved,” he wrote. “In no way does that pertain to nor support insurrection/rebellion.”
He had made similar claims in his opening briefs. “The failed attempt of the plaintiffs to construe my words and present myself as an insurrectionist are purely political and have no place in the court of law,” Griffin wrote.
Judge Mathew disagreed. “Mr. Griffin aided the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violence,” he wrote. “By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’s election-certification proceedings.”
Afterwards, Griffin told CNN he had been ordered to clean out his office. He also attacked Judge Mathew as "tyrannical."
"I'm shocked. Just shocked," Griffin said. "I really did not feel like the state was going to move on me in such a way. I don't know where I go from here."
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