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Trump should be barred from US presidency, Colorado court says

Bloomberg • 5 min read
Trump should be barred from US presidency, Colorado court says
Colorado’s Supreme Court issued the ruling Tuesday, barring Trump from the state’s primary ballot, but stayed the decision to allow the former president to appeal. Photo: Bloomberg
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Donald Trump is ineligible to serve as US president because of his actions inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Colorado’s highest court found, in an unprecedented ruling that’s headed for the US Supreme Court.

Colorado’s Supreme Court issued the ruling Tuesday, barring Trump from the state’s March 5 primary ballot, but stayed the decision to allow the former president to appeal, which his campaign said he plans to do. He has until Jan 4, under the state court’s ruling.

The ruling was the first to say that Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results render him ineligible to run again under a post-Civil War-era provision of the US Constitution that bans insurrectionists from holding public office.

“President Trump’s direct and express efforts, over several months, exhorting his supporters to march to the Capitol to prevent what he falsely characterized as an alleged fraud on the people of this country were indisputably overt and voluntary,” according to the 4-3 ruling from the court. All seven justices were appointed by Democratic governors.

“Moreover, the evidence amply showed that President Trump undertook all these actions to aid and further a common unlawful purpose that he himself conceived and set in motion: prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election and stop the peaceful transfer of power,” the court said.

In addition to his appeal, Trump plans to seek a stay preventing the ruling from taking effect, according to a statement from his campaign. The pause could extend past Jan. 4, depending on when the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case. The court directed Colorado’s Secretary of State to keep Trump’s name on the presidential primary ballot until the matter is decided by the US Supreme Court.

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“Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead President Trump has amassed in the polls,” according to a Trump campaign statement. “They have lost faith in the failed Biden presidency and are now doing everything they can to stop the American voters from throwing them out of office next November.”

The ruling comes as Trump holds a commanding lead in the Republican primary, setting the stage for a 2020 rematch against Biden, who casts Trump as an existential threat to the democratic system. A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll published last week showed that Trump is leading Biden by 5 percentage points among registered voters in a head-to-head match up across seven swing states.

Divided Court

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The majority opinion from the Colorado court said they “do not reach these conclusions lightly. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us.”

“We are also cognizant that we travel in uncharted territory,” the majority wrote.

Chief Justice Brian Boatright said in a dissenting opinion that the ruling was premature because Trump hasn’t been criminally convicted and more time was needed to consider the complexities of the case.

Voters represented by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which brought the case, argued Trump should be barred from the ballot for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“Our Constitution clearly states that those who violate their oath by attacking our democracy are barred from serving in government,” Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, said in a statement. 

Trump has faced dozens of lawsuits across the country this year claiming he’s ineligible for another term in the White House under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The provision states that a person who took an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” is ineligible to hold office again.

State courts in Minnesota and Michigan have so far ruled against similar lawsuits seeking Trump’s removal from ballots under the 14th Amendment. Voters in Michigan have appealed to that state’s highest court.

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Although Republicans have been successful in Colorado, its governors and both US senators are Democrats, as is a majority of its House delegation. Biden won the state and its nine electoral votes in 2020, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in 2016, was victorious in 2016.

‘Extraordinary Holding’

Trump, who is facing four criminal indictments, has used legal actions against him to rally political support, framing the charges as a plot by the political establishment to keep him out of power. The Colorado ruling, coming just one month before the Iowa caucuses, could further galvanize Republicans around him.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, slammed the ruling on social media as “nothing but a thinly veiled partisan attack” and urged the US Supreme Court to set aside the “reckless ruling.”

It could also pressure the US Supreme Court to act quickly on the insurrection issue.

“This is an extraordinary holding,” said Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, who submitted a brief in the case but supported neither party. The US Supreme Court “will face intense pressure as it is asked to weigh in on this hot-button political case,” he said.

Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the ruling “increases the odds that the Supreme Court will take this case, and, if it does, likely makes an expedited decision because of the impending primaries.”

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