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Supreme Court to review Colorado ruling to bar Trump from ballot

Justices will delve into whether the 14th Amendment disqualifies the former president from taking the office again

A beam of sunlight breaks through the cloudy skies to illuminate the Supreme Court in Washington in 2014.
A beam of sunlight breaks through the cloudy skies to illuminate the Supreme Court in Washington in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court will decide a case about Donald Trump’s eligibility for president under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, setting the stage for a ruling that could have sweeping implications for the 2024 presidential election.

The court’s brief announcement Friday once again puts the justices in a fraught nexus involving Trump and politically charged legal issues, as the former president remains the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The justices will review a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court, which found that Trump is disqualified from the presidency under the Insurrection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in the case for Feb. 8.

Justices on the Colorado court concluded that Trump “engaged in insurrection” and pointed to his conduct in the lead-up and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Many arguments in the litigation turn on the reading of the Insurrection Clause, which seeks to prevent individuals who previously took an oath to support the Constitution from holding office if they have “engaged in insurrection.”

The Colorado Supreme Court highlighted comments Trump made during his Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse, in which Trump told his supporters they would not have a country anymore if they did not “fight like hell.”

“Our independent review of the record in this case brings us to the same conclusion: President Trump incited and encouraged the use of violence and lawless action to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the majority opinion stated.

The majority also concluded that comments from Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, were not protected by the First Amendment because it was likely that the president’s supporters would pay attention and act violently. The state court ruling said there was ample evidence that Trump took actions with the goal of stopping Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election, in which he lost to President Joe Biden.

Both Trump and the Colorado Republican Party had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case.

In a filing with the Supreme Court, Trump’s legal team asserted that the Colorado ruling would “unconstitutionally disenfranchise millions of voters in Colorado” and “likely be used as a template to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters nationwide.”

Later Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold pointed to the Supreme Court action when she certified the statewide Republican and Democratic ballots for the 2024 presidential primary election with Trump’s name included.

“Colorado’s 2024 Presidential primary ballot is certified. The United States Supreme Court has accepted the case, and Donald Trump will appear on the ballot as a result,” Griswold said.

Litigation has been filed in many states nationwide that challenges Trump’s eligibility for president under the 14th Amendment.

Attorneys for Trump also underscored the historic stakes embedded into the case, saying if the Colorado ruling stands, it would be the first time in the country’s history that the judiciary blocked voters from casting ballots for a “leading major-party candidate” for president.

The case will go before a conservative Supreme Court on which three of the nine justices were appointed by Trump himself.

The issue could also put a spotlight on Justice Clarence Thomas. A group of eight Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Thomas asking him to recuse himself from the case because of the “substantial involvement in the events leading up to the January 6 insurrection” of his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, and “the financial incentive it presents for your household if President Trump is re-elected.”

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