The lawyer leading a bipartisan campaign to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot in every state says there’s a “very good chance” a high court in Minnesota, Colorado or Michigan will rules on the issue before the end of the year — urgent review by the United States Supreme Court.
“This issue should ideally be decided before the ballots are printed, and I hope and hope that it will be decided in our favor,” said Ben Clements, president and chief legal counsel of Free Speech for People, a legal advocacy group behind some of the constitutional challenges to Trump’s candidacy.
Justices in Colorado and Minnesota heard arguments last week in cases brought by voter groups alleging that an often-overlooked part of the Constitution — Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — barred Trump from voting in their States.
The Colorado District Court is expected to issue an initial ruling this month.
A Michigan court will take up a similar case against Trump this week as his lawyers sue that state’s officials to forcibly include him on the ballot.
“We the people have an obligation, Secretaries of State have an obligation, the courts have an obligation to enforce and give meaning to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Even though it may be politically difficult” , Clements said on ABC’s “This Week.” “.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was ratified after the Civil War to prevent former Confederate rebels from being elected to government positions. It specifies that anyone who has taken an oath “as an officer of the United States to support the Constitution” and who then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or rendered “aid or comfort to the enemy” shall not cannot exercise his functions.
Trump’s critics say he clearly violated Section 3 given his connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and his efforts to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
“It’s very clear,” said Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and constitutional expert. “There is a good chance that at least one state court will decide that the language of the 14th Amendment means what it says and says what it means, applying in this obvious case.”
Trump called the lawsuits an “absurd conspiracy theory” and “election interference.” His legal team argues in court papers that the First Amendment right to free speech protects the former president from allegations that he participated in the insurrection.
Trump’s lawyer, Scott Gessler, who defended him in a Colorado court last week, called the challenge to the 14th Amendment “undemocratic” and argued that “it appears to extinguish the opportunity … for millions of Coloradans, Colorado Republicans and unaffiliated voters to be elected.” be able to choose and vote for the presidential candidate they want.
The constitutional argument for Trump’s disqualification gained momentum after two prominent conservative legal scholars wrote an analysis in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review concluding that Section 3 is “valid, enforceable, and self-executing.” – and applies to Trump.
“The fact that they are associated with the Federalist Society and, unlike me, they are not liberal, I think adds credibility,” Tribe said.
This theory’s claim that each secretary of state has the authority to unilaterally remove Trump from the ballot is supported, at least in part, by a 2012 appeals court decision by Justice supreme – and Trump nominee – Neil. Gorsuch.
In a dispute over a naturalized citizen seeking to run for president in Colorado, Gorsuch concluded that “a state’s legitimate interest in protecting the integrity and practical operation of the political process permits it to exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally barred from holding office.”
“This is a provision that is intended to apply whether or not you are prosecuted and convicted,” Tribe said of Section 3.
But so far, no secretary of state has implemented Article 3 alone.
“Eligibility challenges, whatever they may be, whether it concerns residence, age or anything else, go through a single channel, and that is the court,” insisted the Secretary of State of Minnesota, Steve Simon, a Democrat.
“We are not an investigative office. We are not a law enforcement office. Those who are going to make legal decisions about who engaged in what conduct and whether it rises to the level of disqualification constitutional – that’s what a court is.” will do the trick,” he said.
The case “is difficult,” said Sarah Isgur, a legal analyst at ABC News and a former Trump Justice Department official.
“Was January 6 an “insurrection” or a “rebellion” in the legal sense of the term? Did Donald Trump “engage” in this insurrection?” Isgur spoke about the issues the courts will have to weigh. “The other problem, and I think this one is more difficult, is that the language in Section 3 really only applies to people who have been sworn in as officers of the United States. When Donald Trump took the oath of office to become president, he did not take the oath for an officer of the United States.”
Clements believes his arguments are compelling and will be difficult for the Supreme Court to ignore.
“The point of Article 3 was to say that some people engage in behavior so egregious that it poses such a threat to our democracy,” he said, “that even if they have the support of the majority Americans, they should not serve.”