Attorneys for Donald Trump will be in court this week to defend against two separate cases that aim to stop the former president from appearing on primary ballots in Colorado and Minnesota.
The lawsuits, which could wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court, contend that the GOP front-runner is barred from the presidency under the Civil War-era 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
That amendment includes a provision to prevent people who previously took an oath to support the Constitution from holding office if they have “engaged in insurrection.”
The advocacy groups behind the lawsuits argue Trump clearly reached that bar. The litigation points to his conduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, along with his actions in the lead-up to the attack, such as when he called for people to come to Washington.
“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,” the Colorado lawsuit backed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington states.
Republicans argue the lawsuits interfere with their party’s activity and violate First Amendment rights.
In Colorado, the lawsuit argues that the state secretary of state has the power to deny “constitutionally ineligible candidates,” but the secretary will not keep Trump from the ballot absent a court order.
A five-day evidentiary hearing began in a Colorado court on Monday, which will act as a trial in the case and witnesses could be presented.
That lawsuit argues that Trump violated his oath and disqualified himself from holding the presidency under the 14th Amendment. It also argues the amendment does not require a criminal conviction for “insurrection” for it to be enforced.
Trump attorneys in the Colorado case argue that the language of the 14th Amendment provision does not apply to Trump, and that the lawsuit lacked any fact basis for finding that Trump “engaged” in insurrection.
The amendment provision is also “not self-executing,” meaning that Congress must approve a statute to allow people to sue under the provision, Trump’s attorneys argue.
The Minnesota Supreme Court will hold oral arguments Thursday in a challenge supported by another advocacy group, Free Speech For People.
That lawsuit is pushing for a court order that directs the Minnesota secretary of state to block Trump from the primary. The court during Thursday arguments will in part consider whether it is allowed to weigh in on the case.
Sen. Steve Daines, who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the legal challenge was a “blatant attempt to rob Republican primary voters of their right to select the Republican presidential nominee,” something that would have lasting damage to elections.
“We reject any attempts by outside actors to bar the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination from participating in our party’s primary,” the Montana Republican said in a press release. “Throughout our history, these decisions have been made at the ballot box.”
The Republican National Committee, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, filed a brief in the case urging the court to deny the legal challenge.