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Alternative News

Colorado Disqualifies Trump from Ballot, Triggering Battle over Constitution’s Insurrection Clause

today21/12/2023

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Colorado, where the state Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-to-3 decision to bar Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot because of his actions during the January 6th insurrection. In an unprecedented decision, the justices ruled that the former president is ineligible to appear on the ballot, citing the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment, which was written to prevent Civil War Confederates from returning to government. Section 3 of the amendment states, quote, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States … who, having previously taken an oath … as an officer of the United States, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection,” end-quote.

Trump has vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 6-3 majority. Meanwhile, a number of other states are also considering barring Trump from the ballot.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by the constitutional attorney John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People, which has filed legal challenges to Trump’s eligibility to appear on the ballot in a number of states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Oregon.

First, John, if you can talk about what happened in Colorado? And respond to those who simply say, “Why let the courts decide? Why not let the voters decide? Why remove him from the ballot?”

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, thank you, Amy, for having me.

This was a fantastic victory for our democracy and our Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court got it right. Donald Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for inciting, mobilizing, facilitating the insurrection on January 6.

Now, to your question about why not let the voters decide, the fact is, is that our Constitution makes clear that you have to meet certain qualifications to run for president of the United States. That includes being of 35 years or more by the time of the inauguration, being a natural-born citizen, and not having taken an oath to defend and preserve the Constitution and then turned around and engaged in insurrection. And that is what Donald Trump did. He is disqualified under that critical constitutional provision. It’s designed to protect our republic. The framers of the 14th Amendment placed it into the 14th Amendment after the Civil War to ensure that those who threaten the republic by taking that oath of office and then turning around and engaging in insurrection shall never hold public office again.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, John Bonifaz, could you talk about where else similar decisions may be made? What other states are considering also potentially banning Trump?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, first, I want to say we congratulate our allies at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for their outstanding work in the Colorado case and achieving this victory. And we’re proud of how catalyzed the movement and the work around the country to uphold Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

At Free Speech for People, we have filed similar challenges to Donald Trump’s eligibility in Minnesota, in Michigan and in Oregon. And two of those cases, Michigan and Oregon, are now pending before their state Supreme Courts. Just yesterday, we notified both of those courts, via supplemental authority letters, of the Colorado decision and making clear of its application to our cases in Michigan and Oregon. And we have been also quite public that we intend to file additional challenges very soon in other key states.

The key question here is now: What will Supreme Court do? Will they take this case? And how will they rule? But I also want to add, another critical question is: What will election officials do all across the country? They have the mandate to follow the mandate of the Constitution, to follow what the Constitution requirements are here for placing candidates on the presidential primary ballot. And that includes Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. And they now have a state Supreme Court ruling making clear that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection and is disqualified. And they ought to follow that ruling and bar him from their state ballots, as well.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to read to you a quote from former Biden administration official Tim Wu, who’s a professor at Columbia University. He wrote on the platform X, quote, “This may be an unpopular post, but I think we need to realize that using undemocratic means to fight candidate Trump increases the odds of losing democracy itself. I don’t mean you should ignore clear-cut violations of the law (eg accounting fraud in New York case), but anything that feels like a reach is dangerous,” Tim Wu said. If you could respond to that, John? And also the fact that Biden was asked about the Colorado decision on Wednesday, and this was his response.

REPORTER: Is Trump an insurrectionist, sir?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I think certain things are self-evident. You saw it all. Now, whether the 14th Amendment applies, I’ll let the court make that decision. But he certainly supported an insurrection. No question about it. None. Zero. And he seems to be doubling down on about everything.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, John, your response to what President Biden said, and then also Columbia law professor Tim Wu?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, just on Columbia law professor Tim Wu, and I admire his work, but I think he’s wrong on this matter. This is not an anti-democratic fight in the courts. This is, in fact, a fight to protect our democracy and to protect our Constitution. We cannot ignore what the clear language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is and the reasons why the framers of the 14th Amendment placed that into the Constitution. This was right after the Civil War. There were ex-Confederates who sought to remain in power or to attain power. And a decision was made by those who drafted the 14th Amendment, by the Congress that passed it, and the states that enacted it, that those who take an oath of office to defend our Constitution and then turn around and engage in insurrection, as the Confederates did, are barred from ever holding public office again. They represent a threat to our republic.

And now we have the second insurrection in our nation’s history, on January 6, 2021. Donald Trump incited that insurrection, he mobilized it, he engaged in that insurrection, and he is barred from holding future public office. This is about protecting our democracy. If we ignore this provision of the Constitution, we make it a dead letter, and we set a very dangerous precedent going forward that people can ignore their oath of office and engage in future insurrections.

As to President Biden’s comments, I think he’s absolutely right that Donald Trump has proven to be an insurrectionist, and the courts must uphold Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, we want to thank you so much for being with us, president of Free Speech for People, which has filed legal challenges to Trump’s eligibility to appear on the ballot in a number of states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Oregon.



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