More than two dozen states are seeking to keep former President Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot because of his actions surrounding the January 6 riot and relying on the insurrection clause of the United States Constitution. It is Section 3, Disqualification from Holding Office, of the Fourteenth Amendment that is referred to as the insurrection clause and it states as follows:
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.
The cases in Michigan and Colorado are among the most notable. Many have been dismissed, while secretaries of states in places like New Hampshire and Oregon have said they don’t have the authority to exclude Trump from the ballots in their states.
THE COLORADO SUPREME COURT RULING
The decision from the Colorado Supreme Court finding Trump cannot hold the presidency was unprecedented and marks the first time a presidential candidate has been deemed ineligible for the White House under Section 3 known as the insurrection clause the the United States Constitution. Trump is appealing the ruling and it sets up a politically charged showdown before the Supreme Court that has huge implications for the 2024 presidential election.
On December 19, the Colorado Supreme Court kicked former President Trump off the state’s Republican primary ballot under the 14th Amendment in a 4-3 ruling, making it the first state to block him from seeking the presidency because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. The court put its ruling on hold until January 4, so Trump can first seek review from the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump’s spokesperson quickly vowed to do so, meaning Trump’s name automatically remains on the ballot until the justices in Washington resolve the appeal.
“The Colorado Supreme court affirmed he engaged in insurrection by inflaming his supporters with false claims of election fraud and directing them to the Capitol — preventing him from a second White House term under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause.” The state justices determined that the office of the president is covered under the insurrection clause, which specifically lists those who previously took oaths to support the Constitution as “a member of Congress,” “officer of the United States,” “member of any State legislature” or an “executive or judicial officer of any State.” The district court had ruled that the office of the president was not covered under the clause.”
“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the upper court wrote in its decision. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”
If allowed to take effect, Colorado’s secretary of state may not list Trump’s name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, nor may she count any write-in votes cast for him.
Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, blamed the decision on the “all-Democrat appointed” court, swearing to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The seven-member bench of Colorado’s Supreme Court was entirely appointed by Democratic governors; six later faced voters and won retention elections, while the seventh will do so next year.
“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court and a concurrent request for a stay of this deeply undemocratic decision,” Cheung said. “We have full confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will quickly rule in our favor and finally put an end to these unAmerican lawsuits.”
Norma Anderson, a petitioner and former Republican majority leader of the Colorado House and Senate, said in a statement that the plaintiffs’ win bolstered their efforts to protect the state’s elections.
“My fellow plaintiffs and I brought this case to continue to protect the right to free and fair elections enshrined in our Constitution and to ensure Colorado Republican primary voters are only voting for eligible candidates,” Anderson said. “Today’s win does just that.”
The Colorado Supreme Court decision has been stayed until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether Trump is barred by the Civil War-era provision, which prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
The link to the quoted news source is here:
The link to read the full Colorado Supreme court ruling is here:
A NEW MEXICO CASE CONNECTION
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is also pushing to remove Trump from State Ballots. CREW was successful in its effort to remove a New Mexico County Commissioner Couy Griffin from his post due to his participation in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A district judge in New Mexico barred Otero County commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin, citing a clause in the 14th Amendment that prohibits those who have engaged in insurrection from serving. Griffin was convicted of a misdemeanor trespass charge. The judge’s ruling was the first time in 150 years that the provision has been used to disqualify an official and the first time that a court has ruled the events of January 6 were an “insurrection.”
Griffin was arrested on January 8, 2021, on a federal misdemeanor trespassing charge related to the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Griffin was convicted of the charge on March 22 and sentenced on June 17 to 14 days’ time served, ordered to pay $500 restitution, pay a $3,000 fine, complete community service and one year of supervised release.
Following Trump’s announcement that he would make a third bid for the White House, CREW released a statement saying it would work to ensure that Trump is disqualified from ever holding office again. A statement from CREW said this:
“We warned him that should he decide to run again, we would be taking action to ensure the Constitution’s ban on insurrectionists holding office is enforced. Now we will be. Trump made a mockery of the Constitution he swore to defend, but we will see that it is defended.”
In an interview with ABC News, a CREW official said its focus now is doing whatever possible to keep Trump off the ballot. CREW Executive Vice President and Chief Counsel Donald Sherman said this:
“I will say we are focused on winning. We are not focused on getting our name in the paper … We are focused on bringing the strongest cases possible in order to win and hold the former President accountable. And we are making the strategic choices in order to effectuate that.”
MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS BID TO KEEP TRUMP OFF 2024 PRIMARY BALLOT
On December 27, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a group of voters in the state who challenged former President Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency under the US. Constitution’s “insurrection clause.”
“In a brief order, the state high court denied a request from four voters to review a Michigan Court of Appeals decision that allowed Trump to remain on the Republican presidential primary ballot. The Michigan Supreme Court, composed of seven justices, said it is “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court.” The order was not signed, and a vote count was not noted.
The decision means that Trump’s name will be listed on Michigan’s presidential primary ballot. The primary is scheduled for Feb. 27.
One justice, Elizabeth Welch, dissented and wrote the only legal issue properly before the state supreme court is whether the lower courts erred in finding the Michigan secretary of state lacks the authority to exclude Trump’s name from the presidential primary ballot. Welch wrote that she agrees with the Court of Appeals that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson must place Trump on the primary ballot regardless of whether he is disqualified from holding office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, known as the “insurrection clause.”
Under Michigan law, Welch wrote, “the secretary of state is not legally required to confirm the eligibility of potential presidential primary candidates. She lacks the legal authority to remove a legally ineligible candidate from the ballot once their name has been put forward by a political party in compliance with the statutes governing primary elections.”
Unlike in Colorado, the Michigan Court of Claims did not conduct a trial or reach the question of whether Trump was disqualified under the insurrection clause. Instead, Judge James Robert Redford dismissed the case on technical grounds, finding it involved a political question that cannot be decided by the courts and concluding that the political parties determine their presidential candidates for the primary.
A three-judge Court of Appeals panel agreed with the lower court in rejecting the challenge to Trump’s candidacy, finding that the Michigan secretary of state’s role in the context of presidential primary elections is limited and, beyond publishing a list of potential candidates, “purely administrative.”
The head of each political party ultimately identifies which candidates will be placed on the primary ballot, the judges said.
“The Secretary of State’s role in presidential primary elections is chiefly that of an administrator,” the Court of Appeals panel concluded. “In particular, when it comes to who is or is not placed on the primary ballot, the statutory scheme leaves nothing to the Secretary of State’s discretion. As the Court of Claims explained, who to place on the primary ballot is determined by the political parties and the individual candidates.”
The judges wrote it would be “improper” to decide whether to declare Trump ineligible for the presidency at this time.
“At the moment, the only event about to occur is the presidential primary election. But as explained, whether Trump is disqualified is irrelevant to his placement on that particular ballot,” the appellate court found.”
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MAINE’S SECRETARY KICKS TRUMP OFF BALLOT
On December 28, Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot under the Constitution’s insurrection clause, becoming the first election official to take action unilaterally as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to decide whether Trump remains eligible to return to the White House.
Bellows found that Trump could no longer run for his prior job because his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol violated Section 3, which bans from office those who “engaged in insurrection.” Bellows made the ruling after some state residents, including a bipartisan group of former lawmakers, challenged Trump’s position on the ballot.
Bellows issued the decision after presiding over an administrative hearing earlier this month about Trump’s eligibility for office. A bipartisan group of former state lawmakers filed the challenge against Trump. In her decision, Bellows concluded that she has a legal obligation to adhere to the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist ban and remove Trump from the primary ballot.
Bellows wrote in part in her 34-page decision:
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly. … I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection. … The oath I swore to uphold the Constitution comes first above all, and my duty under Maine’s election laws … is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek,”
The Trump campaign immediately slammed the ruling. Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement:
“We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter”.
The Trump campaign said it would appeal Bellows’ decision to Maine’s state courts. Bellows suspended her ruling until that court system rules on the case.
Legal experts said that Thursday’s ruling demonstrates the need for the nation’s highest court, which has never ruled on Section 3, to clarify what states can do.
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ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
On December 20, CNN offered the following analysis and commentary by Jeremy Herb of the Colorado Supreme court ruling:
HEALINE: Unprecedented Colorado ruling puts courts at the center of Trump’s fate next year
Analysis by Jeremy Herb, CNN
“The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision that Donald Trump is constitutionally ineligible to appear on the ballot in next year’s state primary represents a stunning rebuke of the former president and a new level of accountability for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, threatening his 2024 electoral prospects in a way the four criminal indictments against him have not.
While the court’s 4-3 decision Tuesday may not ultimately lead to the former president’s removal from the ballot in Colorado or any other state – because of expected appeals – the ruling puts the country in uncharted territory, raising the shocking prospect that a major party’s candidate could be barred from office.
It’s perhaps the final exclamation point to cap off a year of unprecedented events encircling Trump, posing new and potentially grave challenges to American democracy heading into a tumultuous election year from a former president who embraces political chaos.
Outside of the courtroom, Trump has increasingly embraced inflammatory rhetoric, musing about being a dictator should he retake power next year and launching attacks against his opponents reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Trump repeated his incendiary comments about immigrants at an event in Iowa Tuesday evening, pushing back against criticism from the Biden campaign and others that he was echoing Adolf Hitler.
“It’s crazy what’s going on. They’re ruining our country. And it’s true, they’re destroying the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. They don’t like it when I said that,” Trump said. “And I’ve never read ‘Mein Kampf.’”
To Trump’s detractors, the Colorado decision signals that the legal system is finally beginning to hold the former president accountable for his efforts to overturn his election loss in 2020 and the attack on the US Capitol that unfolded on January 6, 2021.
“Accountability for inciting an insurrection. It’s about time,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led the House’s first impeachment against Trump.
But Tuesday’s ruling also could help propel Trump back to the White House, emboldening his supporters who have embraced the former president’s message that the criminal cases against him are unjustified and are a key reason he should be returned to power. Trump’s allies railed against the Colorado decision, coming to his defense just as they have following each of his four criminal indictments this year.
“Democrats are so afraid that President Trump will win on Nov 5th 2024 that they are illegally attempting to take him off the ballot,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the House’s No. 3 Republican, said in a statement.
Even former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the most prominent anti-Trump Republican running for president, was critical of the Colorado decision. “I don’t believe it’s good for our country if he’s precluded from the ballot by a court,” he told voters in New Hampshire.
Next year may end up as one of the most chaotic in American legal history.
The US Supreme Court will be faced with both deciding if Trump is eligible for the White House and whether he’s immune from prosecution for his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.
“I can’t overstate the consequences of this evening, and I also want to stress how we now have two major, very critical Trump election issues barreling toward the court. They will have to decide both of these one way or another,” said CNN’s Senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.
The former president has been indicted four times, with criminal trials that could play out at the same time he’s campaigning against President Joe Biden and potentially simultaneously fighting in court to get back on the ballot.
In a poll from The New York Times and Siena College released Tuesday, there was no clear leader between the two, with Trump taking 46% to Biden’s 44% among registered voters. Among those who are, at this early stage, considered likely to vote, Biden takes 47% to Trump’s 45%. Importantly for Trump, the Times/Siena survey finds the former president leading Biden among registered voters who did not participate in the 2020 election, a finding that mirrors other recent polling, CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy wrote.
IMPACT OF RULING
“Up until the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, the numerous court-driven efforts to disqualify Trump from the ballot were not succeeding at blocking him from office, as one state court after another ruled against the lawsuits. Even in Colorado, the trial judge concluded last month that Trump had engaged in an insurrection but that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” doesn’t apply to the presidency.
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed that finding … . Now with that court’s unprecedented ruling, the notion of the courts removing Trump from the ballot in 2024 is no longer theoretical – it’s a real possibility.
In its decision, the state Supreme Court’s majority wrote that it had “little difficulty” in determining that January 6 was an insurrection. The court found that Trump “engaged in” the insurrection and that Trump’s messages to his supporters in the lead-up to the attack on the Capitol “were a call to his supporters to fight and that his supporters responded to that call.”
The four justices stressed that they “do not reach these conclusions lightly.”
“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the court’s majority wrote. “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”
The three dissenting justices cited several reasons they disagreed with the majority, including due process concerns that Trump has not been convicted of any insurrection-related crime. Chief Justice Brian Boatright wrote in his dissent that he believes Colorado election law “was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection,” and said he would have dismissed the challenge to Trump’s eligibility.
Trump is not charged with engaging in an insurrection in the election subversion federal case against him brought earlier this year by special counsel Jack Smith. But the January 6-related charges involve many of the same actions cited by the Colorado court’s majority on Tuesday night.
The judge in Trump’s federal election subversion case had set a trial date for March 4, 2024, but that is now on hold as the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether Trump is immune and can be tried. In a bid to speed that appeals process, the special counsel has asked the US Supreme Court to step in.
It’s still unclear whether that trial or any of the other criminal charges against Trump will be heard before Election Day next year.
But the special counsel’s appeal to the US Supreme Court last week – and Trump’s plan to appeal the Colorado decision to the nation’s high court – means that the federal justices are all but assured to play a key role in both Trump’s legal and electoral fate next year.
“When Donald Trump was in office, every single case of his from administration policy to his own business cases that came to the court, they were all fraught,” Biskupic said, “and these are especially fraught because they will affect his election process.”
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