DENVER (AP) - First, Supreme Court of Colorado ruled that former President Donald Trump was ineligible to run for office for his old job in that state. Then, IThe Democratic Secretary of State issued the same verdict for his state. Who's next?
Both decisions are historical. Colorado court was the first court to apply for a presidential candidate rarely used constitutional restriction Against those who were "engaged in rebellion." Maine's Secretary of State was the first top elections official to unilaterally exclude a presidential candidate from the ballot under that provision.
But both decisions are on hold until the legal process continues.
This means Trump remains on the ballot in Colorado and Maine and his political fate is now in the hands of the US Supreme Court. The Maine decision will probably never go into effect on its own. Its central effect is increasing pressure on the nation's highest court to say clearly: Can Trump still run for president after the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021?
After the Civil War, the US ratified the 14th Amendment to guarantee rights to former slaves and others. This also includes A two-sentence section called Section 3Designed to prevent former Confederates from gaining government power after the war.
"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or an elector of the President and Vice-President, or hold any civil or military office under the United States or any State, unless he has previously been sworn in, in Congress. As a member, or as an officer, of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States The same shall engage in rebellion or insurrection, or give aid or comfort to his enemies: But Congress may by two-thirds vote of each House remove such disability.
Congress removed that disability from most unions in 1872, and the provision fell into disuse. But it was rediscovered after January 6.
How does this apply to Trump?
Trump is already being prosecuted for attempting to overturn his 2020 loss, which culminated in a conviction on January 6, but Section 3 does not require a criminal conviction to take effect. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed to disqualify Trump, claiming he was involved in the January 6 insurrection and is no longer eligible to run for office.
All lawsuits failed until the Colorado ruling. And dozens of secretaries of state have been asked to remove him from the ballot. All said they don't have the authority to do so without a court order — until Maine Secretary of State Shenae Bellows decides.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on Section 3. The state Republican Party is likely to do so while considering an appeal of the Colorado decision. has already been appealed, and Trump is expected to file his application soon. Bellows' decision cannot be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court – it must first be appealed up the judicial chain, starting with the trial court in Maine.
However, Maine's decision binds the high court. It was already highly likely that a judge would hear the Colorado case, but Maine removed any doubt.
Trump lost Colorado in 2020, and he doesn't need to win it again to win an Electoral College majority next year. But he won one of Maine's four Electoral College votes in 2020 by carrying the state's 2nd Congressional District, so Bellows' decision will have a direct impact on his prospects next November.
Until the high court rules, any state can adopt its own standards for whether Trump, or anyone else, can be on the ballot. This type of legal anarchy must be stopped by the Court.
What are the arguments in the case?
Trump's lawyers have several arguments against the push to disqualify him. First, it is not clear whether Section 3 applies to the President – an early draft mentioned the office, but it was removed, and the meaning of the language "an officer of the United States" elsewhere in the Constitution. Not the President, they argue.
Second, even if it applies to the presidency, he says, it is a "political" question that should be decided by voters, not unelected judges. Third, if judges want to get involved, lawyers insist, they would be violating Trump's rights to a fair legal process by ruling out disqualification without some kind of fact-finding process like a lengthy criminal trial. . Fourth, he argues, January 6 was not a rebellion within the meaning of Section 3 – it was more like a riot. Ultimately, even if it was an insurrection, they say, Trump was not involved in it — he was merely exercising his free speech rights.
Of course, lawyers who want to disqualify Trump also have arguments. The bottom line is that the matter is actually very simple: January 6 was an insurrection, Trump incited it, and he has been disqualified.
The attack occurred three years ago, but the challenges were not "ripe," to use the legal terminology, until Trump filed a petition to join the state's ballot this fall.
But the length of time also brings up another issue – no one really wants to rule on the merits of the case. Most judges have dismissed the lawsuits technical issues, including that courts do not have the authority to tell parties who to include on their primary ballots. The secretary of state has also generally avoided those who ask her to impose sanctions on Trump, saying she does not have the authority to do so unless ordered by a court.
Now no one can dodge. Legal experts have warned that, if the Supreme Court does not resolve the issue clearly, it could lead to chaos in November — or January 2025, if Trump wins the election. Imagine, they say, if the high court sidesteps the issue or says it's not for the courts to decide, and Democrats win a slim majority in Congress. Will they seat Trump or disqualify him under Section 3?
Maine has an unusual process in which the Secretary of State must hold a public hearing on challenges to politicians' places on the ballot and then issue a decision. Several groups of Maine voters, including a bipartisan group of former state lawmakers, filed the challenge that triggered Bellows' decision.
Bellows is a Democrat, the former head of the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a longtime critic of Trump on social media. Trump's lawyers asked him to recuse himself from the case, citing posts describing the January 6 "insurrection" and expressing sadness over Trump's acquittal in his impeachment trial over the attack.
She refused, saying that she was not making the decision based on personal opinion. But critics say the example he set is remarkable. Theoretically, election officials in every state could decide that a candidate is ineligible and void their candidacy, based on a new legal principle regarding Section 3.
Conservatives argue that Section 3 could apply to Vice President Kamala Harris, for example — it was also used to bar people from office who donated small sums to individual corporations. They say, couldn't this be used against Harris because she raised money for people arrested in the unrest after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020?
Is this a partisan issue?
Well, of course it is. Bellows is a Democrat, and all Colorado Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democrats. Of the nine justices of the US Supreme Court, six were appointed by Republicans, three were appointed by Trump himself.
But courts don't always divide along predictable partisan lines. Colorado's ruling was 4-3 – so three Democratic appointees disagreed with blocking Trump. Several prominent legal conservatives have supported the use of Section 3 against the former president.
Now we will see how the High Court handles it.
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