The judge rejected claims from Trump’s lawyers that only Congress could apply constitutional disqualification standards.
A Colorado state judge has denied a motion by lawyers representing former President Donald Trump that aimed to dismiss a lawsuit from voters in the state seeking to disqualify Trump from being included on the 2024 presidential ballot.
Those voters, who are being represented by the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), assert that Trump is ineligible to run for president again under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That provision bars any person who has “previously taken an oath” to the Constitution and served in a government position from being able to run for or serve in a government post again if they’ve “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. government or gave “aid or comfort” to those who have.
Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election after his loss to Joe Biden — and his role in inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building by a mob of his loyalists — means that he engaged in, or at least aided, an attempted insurrection. But the former president’s lawyers asserted that only Congress can make that determination, rather than state courts.
That interpretation contradicts the historical application of the constitutional provision, however, and Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace rejected it outright in an order she issued on Wednesday, marking the fifth unsuccessful attempt by Trump to have the case tossed.
The Fourteenth Amendment “clearly gives Congress the ability to remove a constitutional disability should a person be disqualified,” but “says nothing regarding what government body would adjudicate or determine such disability in the first instance,” Wallace wrote, noting that it “would be strange for Congress to be the only entity that is empowered to determine the disability and then also the entity that is empowered to remove it.”
When the court meets again on Monday, Wallace added, she will allow Trump’s lawyers to contend with her ruling by providing additional evidence and caselaw to support their claims. But unless their arguments are compelling, the trial, which is set to begin next week, will proceed as planned.
If the lawsuit is successful, it will only apply in the state of Colorado, where Trump will be barred from running for office. However, recent polling indicates that Colorado could potentially be a “swing state” next year, and losing it (and its nine Electoral College votes) as a potential goal for Trump to pursue in his 2024 strategy would limit his paths toward winning the election overall. Meanwhile, voters in other states have been filing similar lawsuits to bar Trump from running in their jurisdictions.
CREW praised the order from Wallace in a post on social media.
“We’re glad to see this thoughtful ruling, which clears the way to present our clients’ case at trial beginning Monday,” the organization said.
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