A group of National Guard troops, accompanied by a Democratic politician, “ambushed” the offices of a Republican lawmaker this week, catching their aides off guard and violating their freedoms.
Well, that’s the story that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) is trying to tell. Is that actually what happened?
The hyperbole and spin from Greene about what went down this week in front of her congressional office is perhaps unsurprising — it’s been well-documented that the congresswoman has peddled QAnon conspiracy theories, and oftentimes makes statements that can, at best, be described as “off the mark.”
The District of Communism. pic.twitter.com/W4vyRa3JHd
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) March 4, 2021
So what really happened? For that, we have to start from the beginning, examining comments Greene made last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Greene disparages Guam
During her impassioned speech at CPAC, Greene used a common talking point that many other conservatives at the event had made, implying that Democratic lawmakers were spending federal taxpayer dollars on unimportant projects in foreign countries.
But while making those comments, Greene listed, among other countries, a U.S. territory.
Marjorie Taylor Greene again huh! Here she is at CPAC referring to Guam as a foreign country, alongside China and Russia. Sounds like she said Little Italy? Who knows. pic.twitter.com/Wbp1yyvGe2
— Change is now 💙 (@Do_good2020) March 16, 2021
“I’m a regular, normal person. And I wanted to take my regular, normal person, normal, everyday American values, which is, we love our country,” Greene said at CPAC. “We believe our hard-earned tax dollars should just go for America, not for what? China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever, wherever.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW...
Guam is not a foreign country. It is part of the United States, and its residents are U.S. citizens.
Greene’s office gets a visit
The comments were not overlooked by Guam’s congressional, non-voting delegate, Michael San Nicolas. Earlier this month, San Nicolas said that he would make a special visit to Greene’s office some time in the near future, with a special surprise: cookies!
“Congresswoman Greene is a new member, and we will be paying a visit to her and delivering delicious Chamorro Chip Cookies as part of our ongoing outreach to new members to introduce them to our wonderful island of Guam,” The Guam Daily Post reported San Nicolas saying in an article dated March 10.
Guam, an island territory in the Pacific Ocean, has been a part of the United States since 1899. People living in Guam have been recognized as citizens of the U.S. since 1950.
After QAnon terrorist Marjorie Greene stupidly called Guam a foreign land, Guam Rep. Michael F. Q. San Nicolas and members of the Guam National Guard paid the office she’s in a visit. Guam has been a US territory since 1898, its residents are US citizens.pic.twitter.com/Xj0BRES8HH
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) March 16, 2021
On Monday, March 15, San Nicolas made good on his promise. Along with his cookies, he also brought with him members of the National Guard who are currently being stationed in the U.S. Capitol from Guam. San Nicolas filmed his interaction with Greene’s office aides and posted it on social media, though Greene herself wasn’t there at the time.
Based on a statement from Greene shortly afterward, that wasn’t taken too kindly by her.
Greene calls San Nicolas visit an “ambush”
Greene voiced disdain for San Nicolas’s actions in a letter to General Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Though the letter didn’t exclusively complain about San Nicolas, he featured prominently in her complaints.
“In recent days, there has been a dangerous and troubling trend in which members of our armed forces are being used to intimidate civilians, harass members of Congress and their staff, and attack conservative journalists for expressing their views,” Greene wrote in her letter.
Included in her list of examples of such behavior was San Nicolas “leading more than two dozen National Guard troops to ambush my office unannounced and subsequently video record my staff without solicitation or consent.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a letter to the Pentagon, accuses Guam Del. Michael San Nicolas of "leading more than two dozen National Guard troops to ambush my office unannounced," says it's part of a "troubling trend." pic.twitter.com/5dkITySE4h
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) March 16, 2021
It’s clear that Greene exaggerated the situation, in more ways than one.
There are three reasons why Greene’s words in her letter to Hokanson and Austin don’t hold up to scrutiny.
First, the visit by San Nicolas, while not scheduled ahead of time, was not exactly a surprise, either. He had made clear that he was planning to visit Greene’s office in the near future, and ended up doing so a short time later.
Second, this wasn’t an “ambush” in any sense of the word. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “ambush” as an “attack by surprise from a hidden place.” While members of the military were involved, they didn’t attack anyone, and their presence in the halls of Congress was already known. Indeed, Greene wasn’t even the only member of Congress that San Nicolas escorted those troops to on that day — he also visited the office of Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, in that same timeframe.
And finally, there are no “consent” problems with filming what had happened. While there are limits on where cameras can be used in the Capitol building, none of those limits stipulate that a person cannot take pictures or film something happening in the hallways of Congress members’ offices. It is a public area, where filming is allowed, as long as it’s not obstructive to regular business — and as employees of Greene, aides in her office are subject to those standards.
San Nicolas also disputes “using” members of the National Guard for a political ploy. “We were not at all using military service members for political props,” he said after Greene’s letter was published. “I was taking my guardsmen on a tour of the Capitol, and we stopped at several members’ office, and we delivered some goodies.”
San Nicolas continued:
Cookies should never be considered a political prop, but neither should our military. But goodwill is absolutely something that we wish to extend from Guam to everybody, and my guardsmen wish to extend the same, and we’re very honored to be able to facilitate that.
Greene made a series of claims about San Nicolas and his offering of cookies to her, to demonstrate that Guam is indeed a part of the United States.
Perhaps out of embarrassment, perhaps out of indignity, or perhaps some other emotion we don’t know, Greene accused San Nicolas of ambushing her office and her staff, and filming them without their consent.
There is no rule against filming congressional staff, save for certain areas of the Capitol (such as the cafeteria or restaurants, or in the Senate or House chambers) that prevents the public documentation of events in the halls of the building. And describing a cookie delivery as an “ambush,” particularly when it was known about well in advance, is similarly a false statement from Greene.
The freshman congresswoman from Georgia made exaggerated claims in her letter. Her assertions are false.