On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court initiated proceedings to examine the legal arguments put forth by former President Donald Trump in his endeavor to avert exclusion from state presidential ballots. The crux of the matter revolves around Trump’s alleged involvement in the 2021 Capitol attack, and the outcome of this case is poised to have substantial implications for the forthcoming November election.
At the heart of the legal dispute is an appeal filed by Trump, contesting a ruling issued on December 19 by Colorado’s highest court. This ruling determined that Trump should be disqualified from participating in the state’s Republican primary ballot, citing a violation of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. The court specifically invoked Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which stipulates that individuals who have taken an oath to support the Constitution can be barred from holding public office if they are found to have engaged in insurrection or rebellion, or provided aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.
The deliberations before the nine justices stem from the Colorado court’s conclusion that Trump’s actions during the Capitol attack constituted participation in an insurrection. The 14th Amendment, designed to safeguard the integrity of public office, serves as the legal foundation for the court’s decision to disqualify Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot. As the legal proceedings unfold, the nation watches with keen interest, recognizing the potential far-reaching consequences this case may have on the political landscape leading up to the November election.
How Trump Reacted to the Arguments
Trump did not attend the proceedings; instead, he intended to commence his day at his residence in Florida and then journey to Nevada, as outlined by an insider acquainted with his schedule.
On Thursday night, Nevada is set to conduct a nominating caucus, and Trump is anticipated to secure a decisive victory, further solidifying his path towards securing the nomination of his party. This positions him as the contender to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the upcoming November 5th election.
Under a sunny yet chilly winter morning, a multitude of protestors congregated outside the white marble courthouse. Among them, individuals displayed placards bearing messages such as “Failed Coup,” “Remove Trump,” and “Trump is a Traitor.” To ensure security, the police erected barricades around the courthouse.
This legal dispute compels the Supreme Court to assume a pivotal role in a presidential contest of unparalleled significance, reminiscent of the landmark Bush v. Gore decision in 2000. That historical ruling bestowed the presidency upon Republican George W. Bush, superseding Democrat Al Gore.
Efforts opposing Trump, aimed at disqualifying him, have been undertaken in over two dozen states, with limited success. These endeavors primarily focus on his involvement in the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021. Maine has also prohibited him from its ballot, with this decision pending the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Colorado case.
Colorado’s Republican primary is slated for March 5, and the litigants advocating for Trump’s disqualification consist of four Republican voters and two unaffiliated voters.
The conservative majority in the Supreme Court, standing at 6-3, comprises three justices appointed by Trump.
How Did Trump’s Lawyers Responded?
Trump’s legal representatives contend that he does not fall under the disqualification criteria as a president is not considered an “officer of the United States.” They argue that this provision lacks enforceability by the courts without legislative action from Congress and emphasize that Trump was not involved in an insurrection.
The 14th Amendment, established after the American Civil War of 1861-1865, emerged as a response to Southern states that supported slavery and rebelled against the US government.
During the Capitol attack, Trump supporters assaulted law enforcement and besieged the Capitol, aiming to impede Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Prior to the unrest, Trump delivered an inflammatory speech, urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He resisted appeals for hours to intervene and quell the mob.
The plaintiffs argue that a president unequivocally qualifies as an “officer of the United States,” asserting that interpreting Section 3 to exclude the highest officeholder would be nonsensical.
Additionally, the justices may soon confront another legal matter involving Trump. He faces a Monday deadline to petition the Supreme Court for intervention following a rejection by a US appeals court in his claim for immunity. This pertains to one of the two cases where he is charged with crimes linked to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election loss to Biden.
The justices may conclude the case without explicitly addressing whether Trump participated in an insurrection. This case stands in stark contrast to the criminal charges he faces. A favorable ruling for Trump in the Colorado case might not serve as a reliable indicator of how the justices would decide on his request for immunity as a former president. The plaintiffs in the Colorado case receive backing from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.