Supreme Court To Hear Trump’s Ballot Case Thursday
The US Supreme Court began a high-stakes hearing on Thursday to decide whether Donald Trump should be barred from running for president again.
The question before the nine justices is whether Trump is ineligible to appear on the Republican presidential primary ballot in the state of Colorado because he engaged in an insurrection — the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by his supporters.
It is most consequential election law case to feature in the nation’s highest court since it halted the Florida vote recount in 2000 with Republican George W. Bush narrowly leading Democrat Al Gore.
Jonathan Mitchell, a former solicitor general of Texas representing Trump, opened the scheduled 80 minutes of oral arguments and said only Congress can disqualify a candidate.
About 20 demonstrators, some carrying signs reading “Trump Is A Traitor” and “Remove Trump,” protested outside the court ahead of the hearing.
Colorado’s Supreme Court, citing the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, ruled in December that Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, should be barred from appearing on the ballot because of his role on January 6.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars anyone from holding public office if they engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” after once pledging to support and defend the Constitution.
The amendment, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, was aimed at preventing supporters of the slave-holding breakaway Confederacy from being elected to Congress or from holding federal positions.
The 77-year-old Trump appealed to the Supreme Court to throw out the Colorado ruling and similar bids in other states to keep him off the ballot.
“The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is wrong and should be reversed for numerous independent reasons,” Mitchell said, adding that it would “take away the votes of potentially tens of millions of Americans.”
The high court has been traditionally loath to get involved in contentious political questions, but it finds itself taking center stage this year in the White House race.
Besides the Colorado case, the Supreme Court may also agree to hear an appeal by Trump of a lower court ruling that he does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution as a former president and can be tried on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.
Most legal experts expect the court, which includes three justices appointed by Trump, to come up with a ruling that would keep him on the ballot.
“I suspect that the majority on this court will not want to be perceived as taking away the choice of a candidate from a significant number of voters,” said Steven Schwinn, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Illinois Chicago.
“The most likely off-ramp for the court here, the one that it’s most likely to adopt, is to say that only Congress has the authority to disqualify a candidate.”
Trump’s attorneys, in their brief to the Supreme Court, said the “American people — not courts or election officials — should choose the next President of the United States.”
“At least 60 states and federal courts throughout the country have refused to remove President Trump from the ballot,” they said. “The Colorado Supreme Court is the lone outlier.”
Trump’s attorneys also said the 14th Amendment can only be enforced through “congressionally enacted methods” and not through the state courts.
Furthermore, they said, the former president “did not ‘engage in’ anything that constitutes ‘insurrection.’”
“There was no ‘insurrection,’” they said. “The events of January 6 were not an ‘insurrection.’”
Trump delivered a fiery speech to thousands of supporters in Washington on January 6 before they converged on the Capitol in a bid to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
He was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate.