‘Intimidating consequence’: Supreme Court chief justice on removing Trump from Colorado ballot

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U.S. Supreme Court justices on Thursday were skeptical of a court ruling to remove former President Donald Trump from the Colorado ballot for participating in an insurrection during the 2021 Capitol attack in a case with major implications for the November 5 elections.

The nine justices were hearing Trump’s appeal of Colorado’s highest court’s decision to disqualify him from the state’s Republican primary election under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, finding he participated in an insurrection.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits from holding public office any “officer of the United States” who has taken an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the latter, or has received help or comfort.” to its enemies.

The justices questioned Jason Murray, representing four Republican electors and two unaffiliated electors who filed a lawsuit to block Trump from participating in Colorado’s election.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said that if Colorado’s ruling is upheld, other states would begin their own disqualification proceedings for Democratic or Republican candidates.

“And it will depend on just a handful of states deciding the presidential election. That’s a pretty daunting consequence,” Roberts said.

“I think the question you have to ask is why a single state should decide who is president of the United States,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan asked Murray. “This question of whether a former president is disqualified for insurrection, to be president again… it seems terribly national to me.”

Congress has power to act, Trump lawyer says

Roberts also told Murray that the purpose of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power while increasing federal power.

“Wouldn’t that be the last place you would look for permission for the states…to operate the presidential election process? That seems to be a position at war with the entire 14th Amendment and very ahistorical,” Roberts said. Murray said.

Murray responded that state authority over elections is written elsewhere in the Constitution.

WATCH l Explain the insurrection clause and the case:

Trump 2024 and the “insurrection” clause of the US Constitution | About that

The US Constitution could disqualify former President Donald Trump from the 2024 election campaign because of his alleged role in the Capitol riots. Andrew Chang explains a rarely used section of the 14th Amendment and details the arguments we’ll hear in current court cases.

The justices questioned Trump lawyer Jonathan Mitchell about his arguments that Section 3 cannot be enforced by states absent congressional legislation and that presidents are not subject to the section 3.

Roberts asked Mitchell whether a state’s top election official could disqualify a candidate who runs and says he took the oath mentioned in the provision and engaged in insurrection.

“If the candidate is an admitted insurrectionist, Section 3 still allows them to run for office and even win the election — and then see if Congress removes that handicap after the election,” Mitchell said.

Under questioning by liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Mitchell also argued that Trump was not subject to the terms of disqualification because a president is not an “officer of the United States.” Mitchell said such an officer would only be an appointed official in one way or another.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority (6 votes to 3) includes three justices appointed by Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Several people are shown sitting in chairs along a sidewalk in an exterior photo.  Some are covered with blankets.
People began lining up Wednesday outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., for a chance to hear arguments in person in former President Donald Trump’s appeal of a Supreme Court decision of Colorado that he is ineligible for state presidency on the state ballot because he violated an insurrection provision of the Constitution. (José Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Trump is running for president again. Maine also barred him from voting, a decision on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Maine and Colorado primaries are both scheduled for March 5.

Thomas hears case despite calls to recuse himself

Police set up barricades around the courthouse for security reasons. Dozens of protesters gathered outside the white marble courthouse, some holding anti-Trump signs.

The case calls for the Supreme Court to play a central role in a presidential election unlike any since its historic ruling that validated George W. Bush’s landslide victory over Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 election.

Nine people, including five men and four women, pose for a group photo in judicial attire.
The justices of the United States Supreme Court will be introduced on October 7, 2022 in Washington, D.C. From top left to right are Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Seated in the bottom row, left to right, are Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Elena Kagan. (Reuters)

The plaintiffs who filed suit to disqualify Trump are four Republican electors and two unaffiliated electors, backed by a liberal watchdog group.

Trump delivered an incendiary speech to his supporters in Washington on January 6, 2001, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” but also to protest “peacefully and patriotically.” He then rebuffed demands for hours to urge the crowds to stop.

“It was a riot. It was not an insurrection,” Mitchell told Jackson. “The events were shameful, criminal, violent, all of those things, but could not be characterized as an insurrection in the sense that that term is used in section 3.”

Clarence Thomas, who has served on the highest bench for 33 years, heard the case despite calls for recusal from Democrats like Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Thomas’ wife, Ginni, attended Trump’s rally shortly before thousands stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and she sent text messages to senior White House officials urging them to prevent a Biden victory, including one in which she complained to Meadows that the election was a “steal.”

It was the first hearing with potential implications for Trump’s bid for president and his desire to have the criminal charges he faces in indictments in four separate jurisdictions dismissed.

The Supreme Court said it will consider a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding in the coming weeks involving three people charged in connection with the Capitol riot. Among the four counts that special prosecutor Jack Smith sought in the federal election interference case, Trump faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding as well as attempted obstruction to an official procedure.

It is also possible, although not guaranteed, that the Supreme Court will want to rule on whether Trump has immunity from prosecution as a former president. Earlier this week, a D.C. appeals court rejected that idea.

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