By Christine Dolan at CDM.Press.
Former President Donald Trump formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Colorado State Supreme Court's ruling that disqualified him from the state’s 2024 ballot under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist clause.”
“In our system of ‘government of the people, by the people, [and] for the people,’ Colorado’s ruling is not and cannot be correct,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their court pleading.
The highest court in the country is facing growing pressure to settle the question of whether Donald Trump can be disqualified from holding public office under the 14th Amendment.
Election officials and state courts across the country have been flooded with cases and have come to differing conclusions.
The first contests of the 2024 primary begin in Iowa on January 15 and weeks later in New Hampshire.
Trump’s appeal comes nearly a week after the Colorado GOP, which is also a party in the case, filed a separate appeal, and two weeks after the Colorado decision.
The ruling has been put on hold for now because appeals have been filed. Colorado’s top election official has already been transparent that Trump’s name will be included on the state’s primary ballot when it’s certified on January 5 unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise.
It’s highly unlikely the country's highest court will resolve this matter as quickly as this week. If the justices do take up the case, and conclude Trump is ineligible for public office, then any votes cast for him would not be counted.
Colorado’s primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 5.
Trump’s attorneys contend the former U.S. President did not engage in insurrection, and furthermore they argue that that the “question of eligibility” for the presidency should be determined by Congress, not the states, and that the Colorado Supreme Court erred when it ruled that an insurrection occurred on January 6, 2021, and that the former president “engaged” in the insurrection.
“President Trump incited and encouraged the use of violence and lawless action to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the Colorado justices wrote in their 134-page majority opinion on December 19, 2023.
“The Colorado Supreme Court erred in how it described President Trump’s role in the events of January 6, 2021,” Trump’s lawyers argue in their pleading on Wednesday. “It was not ‘insurrection’ and President Trump in no way ‘engaged’ in ‘insurrection.’”
Trump's attorneys also argue that the 14th Amendment’s ‘insurrectionist ban’ doesn’t apply to presidency.
“Thus, to find that Section 3 includes the presidency, one must conclude that the drafters decided to bury the most visible and prominent national office in a catch-all term that includes low ranking military officers, while choosing to explicitly reference presidential electors,” the filing reads.
“This reading defies common sense and is not correct.”
“The Constitution’s text and structure make clear that the president is not an ‘officer of the United States,’” they further argued.
A lower-court judge in Colorado had initially found that the ban does not apply to the presidency, but the state’s Supreme Court decision undid that ruling. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says oath-breaking insurrectionists can’t serve as senators, representatives, presidential electors, “or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State.” But, it negates to mention the presidency.
Trump’s attorneys are arguing that barring him from the Colorado state primary ballot, “if allowed to stand, will mark the first time in the history of the United States that the judiciary has prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate.”
Among their concerns with the lower-court ruling, Trump’s attorneys said that the Colorado Supreme Court “dismissed out of hand President Trump’s argument that Section 3 bars individuals only from holding office, and not from running for or being elected to office.”
Trump’s attorneys also contend Colorado law doesn’t require – or allow – a secretary of state or the courts to “purge” candidates from primary ballots “based on their own assessments of a candidate’s qualifications.”
Trump argued in his petition that his speech called for “peaceful” protests and his attorneys included the full transcript of his speech in his filing.
“President Trump never told his supporters to enter the Capitol, either in his speech at the Ellipse or in any of his statements or communications before or during the events at the Capitol. To the contrary, his only explicit instructions called for protesting ‘peacefully and patriotically,’ to ‘support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,’ to ‘[s]tay peaceful,’ and to ‘remain peaceful,’” his attorneys wrote.
Though the Colorado ruling only applies to that state, a potential decision from the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the matter for the entire nation. Courts in several other states have also reviewed challenges to Trump’s eligibility, though no such case made it as far as the challenge in Colorado.
Last week, Maine’s secretary of state unilaterally removed Trump from that state’s 2024 primary ballot, and the former president’s team on Tuesday appealed that decision in state court.
Furthermore, the Oregon Supreme Court could soon rule on a bid to remove Trump from that state’s primary and general election ballots because of his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
A group of Republican and independent voters filed the Colorado lawsuit, in coordination with a liberal government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington.
CREW told the Supreme Court on Tuesday they also want the justices to make the final decision.
“This Court’s settled precedent holds that the U.S. Constitution provides no right to confuse voters and clutter the ballot with candidates who are not eligible to hold the office they seek,” their lawyers wrote in their pleading.
They asked the justices to focus on two specific questions: whether Trump is disqualified from running for office and whether states are able to enforce the 14th Amendment’s clause absent federal legislation.
“Whether the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a former President (and current presidential primary front-runner) who engaged in insurrection against the Constitution from holding office again is a question of paramount national importance,” they stated in their filing. “Because 2024 presidential primary elections are imminent, there is no time or need to let these issues percolate further.”
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold also asked the justices Tuesday to answer whether Trump can be removed from the ballot and provided them with a timetable of impending election deadlines that her office is required to meet.