Legal debates begin on blocking Trump from presidential vote under “insurrection” clause

By | October 30, 2023

DENVER (AP) — The campaign to use the “insurrection” clause of the U.S. Constitution ban former president Donald Trump to run for the White House again enters a new phase this week as hearings begin in two states on lawsuits that could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

A week-long hearing on a lawsuit aimed at keeping Trump off the ballot in Colorado begins Monday, while Thursday oral arguments are scheduled before Minnesota Supreme Court in an effort to expel the former Republican president from the polls in that state.

Whether the justices keep Trump on the ballot or expel him, their decisions will likely be quickly appealed, possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court has never ruled on the Civil War-era provision of the 14th Amendment that bars those who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from occupy higher positions.

“We’ve had hearings before with presidential candidates debating their electability — Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, John McCain,” said Derek T. Muller, a law professor at Notre Dame, listing the candidates challenged on the question of whether they met the constitutional requirement of being a “natural-born citizen.” But those cases, Muller added, are different, using an obscure clause of the Constitution with the “incendiary” ban against insurrection.

Even though they are a longshot, Muller said, they have a plausible legal path to success and raise important questions.

“These legal issues are very fraught,” Muller said.

Dozens of cases citing Section Three of the 14th Amendment have been filed in recent months, but those in Colorado and Minnesota appear to be the most important, legal experts say. This is because they were filed by two liberal groups with significant legal resources. They also targeted states with a clear and timely process for challenging candidates’ electoral qualifications.

That means the Colorado and Minnesota cases take a more legally sound path to getting courts to force election officials to disqualify Trump, unlike other lawsuits that seek a sweeping ruling from federal judges that Trump is no longer eligible to run for president.

The plaintiffs in these cases argue that the problem is simple: Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, which led to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitolmeans he is disqualified from the presidency just as clearly as if he were not a natural-born citizen, another constitutional requirement for holding the office.

“Four years after taking an oath to ‘preserve, protect, and defend’ the Constitution as President of the United States…Trump attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, leading to a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol to stop the vote. lawful transfer of power to his successor,” asserts the Colorado lawsuit, filed on behalf of Republican and unaffiliated voters by the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“By inciting this unprecedented attack on the American constitutional order, Trump violated his oath and disqualified himself under the Fourteenth Amendment from holding public office, including that of President.”

Trump called the lawsuits “election interference.” His lawyers argue that none of the issues are straightforward in a provision of the Constitution that hasn’t been used in 150 years.

The clause has only been used a few times since immediately after the Civil War. Trump’s lawyers say it was never intended to apply to the office of president, which is not mentioned in the text, unlike “senator or representative in Congress” and “elector of the president and vice -president “.

This provision allows Congress to grant amnesty – as was done in 1872 to allow former Confederates to reenter the government – ​​which has led some to argue that it has no power without an enabling law from the Congress.

Finally, Trump’s lawyers say the former president never “engaged in insurrection” and simply exercised his free speech rights to warn against Election results he didn’t believe they were legitimate.

“Trump’s comments did not amount to ‘incitement,’ much less ‘engagement’ in insurrection,” his lawyers wrote in a filing in the Colorado case, adding examples of where the authors of Section Three Congress refused to use it against people. who only supported the confederacy rhetorically.

Proceedings in Colorado could include testimony from witnesses to the Jan. 6 attack or other significant events that occurred during that period. Trump’s efforts to cancel the elections. The identities of the witnesses were protected until they took the stand, as part of the court’s mandate. effort to limit the heated rhetoric and threats that have become an issue in Trump’s criminal trials.

Lawyers should delve deeper into the history of the drafting of the 14th Amendment provision and its use between its passage in 1868 and the Amnesty Act in 1872. There is little legal precedent on the issue – so little that lawyers have had to discuss the meaning of a case written in 1869 by Salmon Chase, who was then chief justice of the United States Supreme Court but had only written as an appellate judge.

After the Amnesty Act of 1872, legal scholars could only find the provision cited once, when Congress refused to seat a socialist member in the House of Representatives because he opposed the entry into the First World War.

Then last year, CREW used it to bars the leader of the “Cowboys for Trump” from a county commission seat in rural New Mexico. A second liberal group, Free Speech For People, filed lawsuits seeking to block Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Madison Cawthorn from running for office.

The judge in Greene’s case ruled in his favorwhile the case of Cawthorn has become irrelevant after being beaten in his primary. Free Speech For People filed suit in Minnesota, where challenges to election appearances go directly to the state Supreme Court.

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