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Supreme Court Rules Trump Can Appear on Presidential Ballots

Supreme Court Rules Trump Can Appear on Presidential Ballots
Donald Trump Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

The US Supreme Court said Donald Trump can appear on presidential ballots this year, putting an end to efforts nationwide to ban him under a rarely used constitutional provision barring insurrectionists from holding office.

The court on Monday unanimously overturned a Colorado Supreme Court decision that said Trump forfeited his right to run for president again by trying to overturn his 2020 election loss. The high court acted a day before Super Tuesday, when Colorado and 14 other states and one territory hold presidential primaries.

In an unsigned 13-page opinion the court said that Congress has exclusive power to enforce the provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, against people seeking federal office. “States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency,” the court said.

A state official in Maine and a judge in Illinois had also declared Trump ineligible to appear on the ballot, and litigation was taking place in other states as well. The high court ruling effectively dooms those efforts.

Though the court was unanimous, the justices split along ideological lines in their rationale. The three liberals – Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – said the court went further than it needed to in its reasoning. In a concurring opinion that read more like a dissent, they faulted what they called “the majority” for indicating the insurrection clause can’t be enforced without Congress first enacting legislation.

The court “reaches out to decide Section 3 questions not before us, and to foreclose future efforts to disqualify a presidential candidate under that provision,” the group wrote. “In a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course.”

The decision spares the Republican frontrunner from having to fight state-by-state battles over his eligibility to even be listed as a candidate. It resolves key questions about a post-Civil War constitutional clause that had threatened to derail Trump’s bid to reclaim the White House and fueled the debate over his culpability for the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

The ruling didn’t explicitly say whether Congress could refuse to count Trump’s electoral votes should he win at the polls in November. The high court declined to absolve Trump of blame for the events of Jan. 6, sidestepping his contention that he didn’t engage in insurrection.

The ruling was perhaps the court’s biggest presidential election decision since the 5-4 Bush v. Gore case ended the 2000 deadlock and dealt a blow to the court’s reputation.

Trump Touts Win

Trump called a press conference Monday afternoon at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida to praise the ruling. But he also made it clear he remains concerned about how the justices will rule in a pending case over his claim of immunity from prosecution. Trump currently faces four criminal indictments and several civil lawsuits.

“Whether it was the leading candidate or candidate that was well down on the totem pole, you cannot take somebody out of a race,” Trump said. “The voters can take the person out of the race, very quickly, but a court shouldn’t be doing that.”

Without the sweeping criminal immunity Trump claims he posses, the presidency would “be nothing more than a ceremonial post,” he added.

Trump is expected to win big on Tuesday on his path to all but certainly clinch the nomination. He leads his only challenger, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, by almost 64 points nationally.

In Monday’s ruling, Justice Amy Coney Barrett agreed with her three liberal colleagues that the court decided more than it needed to in the case. But she opted not to join the liberals’ opinion and implicitly criticized its tone.

“In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency,” she wrote. “For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine justices agree on the outcome of this case.”

The Colorado case was brought by a group of voters represented by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. They said a five-day hearing in Colorado established that Trump was part of an insurrection that tried to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

“While the Supreme Court allowed Donald Trump back on the ballot on technical legal grounds, this was in no way a win for Trump,” said Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s president. “The Supreme Court had the opportunity in this case to exonerate Trump, and they chose not to do so. Every court – or decision-making body – that has substantively examined the issue has determined that January 6th was an insurrection and that Donald Trump incited it.”

The former president told the justices in court papers that efforts to bar him from running would unleash “chaos and bedlam” if successful.

Trump’s primary argument was that the president isn’t covered by the insurrection clause, which applies to anyone who was an “officer of the United States.” Trump’s lawyers said the phrase is a legal term of art that elsewhere in the Constitution excludes the president.

Trump also argued he didn’t “engage in” insurrection. In concluding he did, the Colorado Supreme Court pointed to his unsupported claims of a stolen election, his fiery Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse before his supporters attacked the Capitol, and his demands that Vice President Mike Pence refuse to certify the results.

The case is Trump v. Anderson, 23-719.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Skinyela Skinyela says:

    This is a victory for democracy.

    let the people decide who must lead them, not the courts.

    What they were trying to do was very dangerous and a slippery slope

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