U.S. Supreme Court justices on Thursday were skeptical of a court decision that removes former President Donald Trump from the ballot in Colorado for participating in an insurrection during the 2021 attack on the Capitol in a case with major implications for the November 5 elections.
The nine justices were hearing Trump’s appeal of a Colorado high court ruling that disqualified him from the state’s Republican primary under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on grounds that he participated in an insurrection.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits holding public office any “official of the United States” who has sworn to “support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engages in, or has been aided or abetted in, an insurrection or rebellion against the same.” comfort”. to his enemies.”
The judges questioned Jason Murray, who represents four Republican voters and two unaffiliated voters who sued to keep Trump out of the Colorado election.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said that if Colorado’s decision is upheld, other states will proceed with their own disqualification procedures for Democratic or Republican candidates.
“And it’s going to come down to just a handful of states that will decide the presidential election. That’s a pretty discouraging consequence,” Roberts said.
“I think the question that needs to be faced is why should a single state decide who will be president of the United States,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan asked Murray. “This question of whether a former president is disqualified from insurrection, from being president again…sounds terribly national to me.”
Congress has the power to act: Trump lawyer
Roberts also told Murray that the goal of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power while increasing federal power.
“Wouldn’t that be the last place they would seek authorization for states to…enforce the presidential election process? That seems to be a position that is at war with the whole thrust of the 14th Amendment and is very ahistorical,” he said. Roberts. Murray said.
Murray responded that state authority over elections is enshrined elsewhere in the Constitution.
The justices questioned Trump’s lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, about his arguments that states cannot enforce Section 3 without legislation from Congress and that presidents are not subject to Section 3.
Roberts asked Mitchell whether a state’s top elections official could disqualify a candidate who ran and said he took the oath mentioned in the provision and participated in an insurrection.
“If the candidate is an admitted insurrectionist, Section 3 still allows him to run for office and even win the election, and then see if Congress lifts that disability after the election,” Mitchell said.
Questioned by liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Mitchell also argued that Trump is not subject to the disqualification language because a president is not an “official of the United States.” Mitchell said such an officer would only be a designated official of some kind.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump-appointed justices: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump is running to be president again. Maine also excluded him from its vote, a decision that was put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Primaries in Maine and Colorado are 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 race like no other since its landmark decision that validated George W. Bush’s narrow victory over Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 election.
The plaintiffs suing to disqualify Trump are four Republican voters and two unaffiliated voters, backed by a liberal watchdog group.
Trump gave 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.” Then, for hours, he rejected requests that he urge the mob to stop.
“This was a riot. It was not an insurrection,” Mitchell told Jackson. “The events were shameful, criminal, violent, all of those things, but they did not qualify as an insurrection as that term is used in Section 3.”
Clarence Thomas, who has been on the high court for 33 years, heard the case despite calls from Democrats such as Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois for him to recuse himself.
Thomas’s wife, Ginni, attended the rally Trump held shortly before thousands of people stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and sent text messages to senior White House officials urging them to prevent a Biden victory. , including one in which he complained to Meadows that the election was a “holdup.”
It was the first hearing with possible implications for Trump’s candidacy for president and his desire to overturn the criminal exposure he faces in indictments in four separate jurisdictions.
The Supreme Court has said that in the coming weeks it will review a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, belonging to three people charged in connection with the Capitol riot. Among the four charges that special counsel Jack Smith has sought in the federal election interference case, Trump faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, as well as attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
It’s also possible, though not guaranteed, that the Supreme Court will want to weigh in on the question of whether Trump has immunity from prosecution as a former president. Earlier this week, a D.C. appeals court rejected that idea.