A Denver District Court judge is expected to rule Friday on the lawsuit that will determine whether former President Donald Trump is barred from the ballot because of a provision in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits those who “engaged in ‘insurrection’ to hold office.
This year, supporters attempted to remove Trump from the ballot in Colorado and other states under Section Three of the 14th Amendment, which excludes from office those who took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and then “engaged in an insurrection” against her. This measure has only been used a few times since the post-Civil War period.
Oral arguments in the lawsuit, filed by the left-leaning group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, concluded Wednesday. Sean Grimsley, the petitioners’ attorney, argued that Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power. He says this makes him ineligible to hold office under the 14th Amendment. Trump lawyer Scott Gessler says there is no evidence that Trump intended to incite violence and that violence, he says, does not amount to an insurrection.
Gessler said the lawsuit amounts to election interference and is based entirely on the committee’s Jan. 6 report, which he says is completely one-sided.
“The petitioners are asking this court to do something that has never been done in the history of the United States,” Gessler said. “The evidence falls far short of allowing the court to do so.”
The trial, which concluded two weeks ago, included testimony from Washington DC riot police, rally participants, constitutional experts and two members of Congress.
The Colorado plaintiffs’ attorney, Sean Grimsley, told the judge during Wednesday’s hearing that the evidence was clear.
“We are here because, for the first time in our nation’s history, the president of the United States has engaged in insurrection,” he said, summarizing their case. “Now he wants to become president again. The Constitution doesn’t allow it.”
If they can keep Trump out of primary elections in enough states, their supporters hope to prevent him from securing the delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
Whatever the judge decides, it is almost certain that the case will be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Similar lawsuits challenging Trump’s election eligibility under the 14th Amendment recently failed in Michigan and Minnesota. The Minnesota Supreme Court sidestepped the question of whether that provision applied to Trump, who is dominating the Republican presidential primary so far. He rejected a lawsuit seeking to exclude him from the state’s primary ballot by saying political parties can allow whoever they want to qualify for primaries. The court left the door open for a general election challenge if Trump becomes the GOP nominee. Michigan’s judge has dismissed another lawsuit seeking to knock Trump off that state’s primary ballot with a more sweeping ruling. He said whether that provision applied to the former president was a “political question” that should be resolved by Congress, not judges. The liberal group that filed the suit in Michigan, Free Speech For People, announced plans to appeal the decision.
The Trump campaign called the lawsuits “election interference” and an “undemocratic” attempt to prevent voters from having the choice they want next November.