Donald Trump’s legal battles are truly heating up this week, as three of his adult children will likely take the stand in his New York fraud trial. However, it is the trials in Colorado and Minnesota that could determine whether the former president’s attempts to seek the White House are derailed.
Trump’s Legal Apocalypse
The trial in Denver, Colorado – which began on Monday – could determine if Trump should be banned from Colorado’s presidential ballot in 2024 under the 14th Amendment, which bans those who have committed insurrection from running for higher office. A similar case is set to begin in Minnesota on Thursday.
Section 3 of the Civil War-era amendment bars anyone who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office in the United States.
However, Trump has not actually been charged with insurrection.
The Colorado Case
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Colorado voters for Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The suit argues that should disqualify Trump from Colorado’s presidential ballot under the aforementioned 14th amendment.
“Donald Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election,” read the lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 6 in Denver District Court. “His efforts culminated on January 6, 2021, when he incited, exacerbated, and otherwise engaged in a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol by a mob who believed they were following his orders, and refused to protect the Capitol or call off the mob for nearly three hours as the attack unfolded.”
It further claims that Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution as president, but then “tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, leading to a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol to stop the lawful transfer of power to his successor” … “By instigating this unprecedented assault on the American constitutional order, Trump violated his oath and disqualified himself under the Fourteenth Amendment from holding public office, including the Office of the President.”
Similar lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – and while some have been dismissed – the Colorado case is the first to go to trial. It is expected that regardless of the rulings in Colorado and Minnesota, the cases will eventually head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The highest court in the land has never ruled on the Civil War-era provision, but it has heard cases that have debated eligibility.
“We’ve had hearings with presidential candidates debating their eligibility before — Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, John McCain,” Derek T. Muller, a Notre Dame law professor, told the Associated Press, while listing candidates challenged on whether they met the constitutional requirement of being a “natural born citizen.”
The issue with these cases is that they’re using an “obscure clause” of the Constitution.
The lawsuits were filed after Trump was indicted in August in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by federal prosecutors, who wrote that the former president’s “pervasive and destabilizing lies” had “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government.”
Trump has ridiculed the lawsuits at his rallies and dubbed them “election interference,” while his legal team contends that none of the issues are simple in a provision of the Constitution that hasn’t been used in 150 years and that Trump never “engaged in insurrection.” His lawyers have also contended that voters should have the opportunity to decide whether he should return to the White House.
“(This lawsuit) looks to extinguish the opportunity…for millions of Coloradans – Colorado Republicans and unaffiliated voters – to be able to choose and vote for the presidential candidate they want,” Trump attorney Scott Gessler said. “In fact, the leading Republican presidential candidate, and by many measures, the candidate most likely to win the presidency.”
Can it be Enforced?
The Constitution doesn’t actually clearly spell out how any ban would be enforced. The 14th Amendment has only been employed twice since the late 19th century when it was applied against those who served in the Confederacy.
It has yet to be determined if it would be election officials, Congress or a court could determine how the ban would even be implemented.
It is likely the Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in.
CREW filed the lawsuit in September, and has requested an expedited process to resolve the dispute prior to Colorado’s Republican primary on March 5, which is Super Tuesday.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.