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8 Feb, 2024 20:02

Supreme Court hears historic Trump case

The court was highly critical of an effort by Colorado activists to bar the former president from seeking office again
Supreme Court hears historic Trump case

US Supreme Court judges appeared ready on Thursday to shoot down a landmark legal challenge in Colorado seeking to prevent former President Donald Trump’s name appearing on ballots in the state this November.

The case came before the court six months after it was filed by a group of activist lawyers in Colorado. The lawyers argued that Trump should be barred from seeking reelection and prohibited from contesting next month’s Republican primary, as the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution forbids insurrectionists from holding public office. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed, issuing a ruling in December barring Trump from the ballots.

The US Supreme Court was more skeptical. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative, pointed out that Trump has not been convicted of inciting an insurrection. While Democrats have argued that Trump incited an “insurrection” on Capitol Hill in January 2021, he has not been charged with this offense.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision “has the effect of disenfranchising voters to a significant degree,” Kavanaugh declared.

Justice John Roberts, considered a moderate, suggested that barring Trump from the ballot would lead to a situation where “just a handful of states… decide the presidential election.”

“What would seem to be the big plain consequences of your position?” Roberts asked Colorado lawyer Jason Murray. “If Colorado’s position is upheld, surely there will be disqualification proceedings on the other side and some of those will succeed,” he said, calling this a “pretty daunting consequence.”

Even some of the court’s liberal justices expressed concern at the prospect of disqualifying Trump. “I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States,” Justice Elena Kagan told Murray. “Why should a single state have the ability to make this determination not only for their own citizens but also for the nation?”

Trump’s lawyers have centered their case around the same question. “In our system of ‘government of the people, by the people, [and] for the people,’ the American people – not courts or election officials – should choose the next president of the United States,” they wrote in their brief to the court. 

Thursday’s hearing concluded without a ruling from the justices. The case is one of multiple legal hurdles currently facing Trump, including federal cases over his alleged incitement of the January 6 riot and his alleged mishandling of classified documents, as well as state-level cases in Georgia and New York.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Trump praised his lawyers for their “beautiful” presentation, and claimed that the Colorado case was part of a wider effort by Democrats to stop him from defeating President Joe Biden in November’s presidential election.

“Every one of these cases you see comes out of the White House, it comes out of Biden,” he declared. “It’s election interference and it’s really very sad.”