Can Donald Trump still run for US president after Colorado court ruling?


Colorado's top court bars Trump from state’s primary ballot for role in Capitol riot
Colorado's top court bars Trump from state’s primary ballot for role in Capitol riot

The top court in the US state of Colorado has ruled that former President Donald Trump is disqualified from holding office again over his role in the January 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol by his supporters.

Tuesday’s verdict makes Trump the first presidential candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible for the White House under a rarely used provision of the US Constitution that bars officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after taking oath to protect it.

Trump’s campaign spokesperson dubbed the verdict “flawed” and promised to “swiftly” file an appeal in the United States Supreme Court.

Here is more to know about the ruling and what it means for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

What did the Colorado court rule on Donald Trump on Tuesday?

A slim majority of the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the former president is ineligible to hold the US presidency and is to be disqualified from the state’s ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars anyone involved in insurrection or rebellion from running for federal office.

“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the Colorado Supreme Court wrote in its four-three majority decision.

“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the Colorado justices said. “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

This is the first time a court has ruled on the basis of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War.

A lower court judge in the state previously ruled that Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, amounted to insurrection but stopped short of disqualifying him, saying Section 3 does not apply to presidents.

The Colorado Supreme Court paused its own ruling pending review by the US Supreme Court.

The ruling was aligned with advocacy groups and activists who called for the disqualification of Trump from the presidential race following his involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed across several US states in efforts to disqualify Trump from running for president in those states. Similar lawsuits have previously been dismissed by courts in Michigan, Florida and New Hampshire. The Minnesota Supreme Court has also rejected a disqualification case.

However, this ruling can influence other states to invoke similar rulings in competitive states that Trump needs to win.

What happened on January 6, 2021?

On January 6, 2021, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to prevent the Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. This was after Trump prematurely declared victory and alleged voter fraud. In a speech on the day of the riot, Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. A US Congressional committee concluded that Trump was responsible for the Capitol riots.

Can Trump still run for presidency and what does it mean for the 2024 election?

Even if the ruling survives Supreme Court review, it could be inconsequential to the outcome of the November 2024 election because Trump does not need to win Colorado, which is a Democratic-leaning state.

Colorado has nine of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. Biden won the state by more than 13 percentage points in the 2020 election.

But similar lawsuits could be filed in competitive states that Trump must win to prevail, and while none of those courts would be bound by the Colorado decision, judges will likely study it closely while reaching their own conclusions.

How did Trump and Republicans react to Colorado’s ruling?

Trump’s campaign called the court decision “undemocratic”. Trump and his allies have dubbed disqualification cases in Colorado and other states as part of a conspiracy by his political rivals to keep him out of office.

“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” a campaign spokesperson said.

Campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said the “all-Democrat appointed” panel in Colorado was doing the bidding of a “[George] Soros-funded, left-wing group’s scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden”.

Even after his absence from the Republican debates, Trump remains a frontrunner in the polls. “Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead President Trump has amassed in the polls,” he added.

Despite their exasperation with Trump, US Republican leaders joined in to call the ruling undemocratic and campaign for its appeal on X. This included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running against Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. DeSantis said the US Supreme Court “should reverse” the Colorado ruling.

“The Left invokes ‘democracy’ to justify its use of power, even if it means abusing judicial power to remove a candidate from the ballot based on spurious legal ground,” he wrote on X,

What’s next?

The ruling has been placed on hold by the Colorado Supreme Court until January 4, or until a review by the US Supreme Court, which Trump said he will immediately seek. Colorado officials have said the issue needs to be settled by January 5, which is when the state prints its presidential primary ballots.

It is unclear how the Supreme Court would rule, but it is dominated by a conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees, some of whom are longtime sceptics of giving courts powers that are not clearly based in legislation.

That was a top concern for the dissenting justices in the 4-3 Colorado decision, who said the majority’s ruling would strip Trump of one of his most basic rights without adequate due process.

“Even if we are convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past – dare I say, engaged in insurrection – there must be procedural due process before we can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office,” Justice Carlos Samour Jr said.

They noted that Trump has not been convicted of insurrection by a jury and did not have the right to subpoena records or compel witnesses to testify in the case, among other basic rights afforded to criminal defendants.

What is the status of other cases against Trump?

The current ruling adds to the legal woes facing the former president. A US federal judge on Monday set March 4, 2024, as the date for his election subversion conspiracy trial – a move immediately decried by Trump himself as “election interference”.

That date is the eve of the so-called “Super Tuesday” – one of the biggest moments of the primaries when voters in more than a dozen states, including populous California and Texas, go to the polls. Colorado is also on that list, but will Trump be on the ballot?

Trump noted the timing, saying it was “just what our corrupt government wanted”.

Then, just three weeks later, on March 25, Trump will have another court date – this time in New York, where he is facing charges over alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

On May 20, 2024, all eyes will be on Florida, where the third case against the ex-president will open: over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office.

A fourth trial could even open in 2024: Trump is also under indictment in Georgia, over an alleged conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost to Joe Biden.

The prosecutor in that case has asked for a 2024 trial.

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