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Trump wins Colorado ballot disqualification case at US Supreme Court

FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage during a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Jay Paul/File Photo
| Photo Credit: JAY PAUL

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Donald Trump a major victory on March 4 as he campaigns to regain the presidency, overturning a judicial decision that had excluded him from Colorado’s ballot under a constitutional provision involving insurrection for inciting and supporting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The Justices unanimously reversed a December 19 decision by Colorado’s top court to kick Mr. Trump off the State’s Republican primary ballot after finding that the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment disqualified him from again holding public office.

Mr. Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 U.S. election. His only remaining rival for his party’s nomination is former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who recently got her first victory by winning the District of Columbia’s Republican primary.

Mr. Trump was also barred from the ballot in Maine and Illinois based on the 14th Amendment, but those decisions were put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Colorado case. His eligibility had been challenged in court by a group of six voters in Colorado – four Republicans and two independents – who portrayed him as a threat to American democracy and sought to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, riots on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The plaintiffs were backed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.

Also read: Joe Biden, Donald Trump set to win primary races on Super Tuesday; Biden faces dissatisfied Democratic voters

The ruling came on the eve of Super Tuesday, the day in the U.S. presidential primary cycle when most States hold party nominating contests. As lawsuits seeking to disqualify Mr. Trump cropped up across the U.S., it was important for his candidacy to clear any hurdles to appear on the ballot in all 50 States.

SC’s significant ruling

The Supreme Court resolved the Colorado ballot dispute speedily, a timeline that stands in contrast to its slower handling of Mr. Trump’s bid for immunity from criminal prosecution in a federal case in which he faces charges for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss. Mr. Trump’s trial has been put on hold awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision – a benefit for him as he campaigns against Biden.

In the Colorado dispute, the Justices agreed to take up the case a mere two days after Mr. Trump filed his appeal, fast-tracked arguments and issued the written opinion in just over two months. In contrast, the Justices, in the immunity case in December, declined a bid to speed up resolution of the matter before a lower court had weighed in. Last week, they agreed to take up the matter after lower courts had ruled – setting arguments to take place in late April, a much longer timeline.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Mr. Trump appointees. Not since ruling in the landmark case Bush v. Gore, which handed the disputed 2000 U.S. election to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, has the court played such a central role in a presidential race.

The 14th Amendment’s Section 3 bars from office any “officer of the United States” who took an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

In a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Mr. Biden’s 2020 election victory, Mr. Trump supporters protested, broke through barricades and swarmed the Capitol. Mr. Trump, repeating his claims of widespread voting fraud, told his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours rebuffed requests that he urge the mob to stop.

The 14th Amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War of 1861-1865 in which seceding Southern states that allowed the practice of slavery rebelled against the U.S. government.

Colorado’s top court ruling

In ruling against Mr. Trump, Colorado’s top court cited the “general atmosphere of political violence that President Trump created” and that he aided “the insurrectionists’ common unlawful purpose of preventing the peaceful transfer of power in this country.”

The Supreme Court heard arguments on February 8. Mr. Trump’s lawyer argued that he is not subject to the disqualification language because a president is not an “officer of the United States,” that the provision cannot be enforced by courts absent congressional legislation, and that what occurred on Jan. 6 was shameful, criminal and violent but not an insurrection.

Many Republicans have decried the ballot disqualification drive as election interference, while proponents of disqualification have said holding Trump constitutionally accountable for an insurrection supports democratic values.

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