14th Amendment Challenge Against Trump Begins In Colorado

A Colorado court heard opening arguments on Monday to determine whether the state can use the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment “insurrection” clause to disqualify former President Donald Trump from appearing on its 2024 presidential election ballots.

“Trump incited a violent mob to attack our Capitol, to stop the peaceful transition of power,” Eric Olson, an attorney representing Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, reportedly said in an opening statement before a Colorado District Court judge.

CREW filed a lawsuit in September to remove Trump from the ballot in Colorado under the 14th Amendment, accusing the former president of violating Section 3, which bars anyone from running for office who had previously taken an oath of office, then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

U.S. officials ratified the Amendment in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War during the Reconstruction Era, which was designed to represent a new birth of freedom for previously disenfranchised citizens, according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

The group argues the clause constitutionally disqualifies the leading Republican contender from the next presidential election for allegedly engaging in “insurrection” against the United States because he “incited a violent mob” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.

Before the crowd breached the nation’s capitol, Trump gave remarks on the Ellipse on January 6. At one point during his speech, the former president said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

But despite Trump’s legal team arguing that those words were not a call to incite violence, Olson claimed the former president “summoned and organized the mob” to storm the U.S. Capitol.

“We are here because Trump claims, after all that, that he has the right to be president again,” Olson said. “But our Constitution, the shared charter of our nation, says he cannot do so.”

Scott Gessler, a lawyer representing Trump, dismissed the claim against the former president, saying that disqualifying Trump from the next election would set a dangerous precedent based on “legal theories that have never been embraced by a state or federal court.”

“People should be able to run for office and shouldn’t be punished for their speech,” Gessler reportedly told the court during his opening statement.

Gessler, a former secretary of state for Colorado, called the lawsuit “anti-democratic” and pointed to the “rule of democracy” election law that “errs on the side of letting people vote” in circumstances open for interpretation.

Before the trial, Trump’s legal team filed a motion to have Judge Sarah B. Wallace of the Colorado 2nd Judicial District recuse herself from the trial because she reportedly made a $100 donation to the Colorado Turnout Project in October 2022, which states on its website organizers formed it to “prevent violent insurrections.”

Wallace reportedly denied the motion, claiming she didn’t recall donating to the group until the legal team filed the motion.

“I will not allow this legal proceeding to turn into a circus,” she said.

Other groups in Michigan and Minnesota have also brought similar lawsuits against Trump, but Colorado is the first to bring its challenge to trial using the measure — which has rarely been used over the last 150 years.

Colorado’s trial marks the first time it’s been used to disqualify a former president from holding public office again.

Trump faces four separate indictments along the East Coast, including charges related to hush money, classified documents, election interference, and racketeering. Trump has broadly denied any wrongdoing in the charges brought against him and has claimed politically motivated forces are targeting him in a “witch hunt” propagated by the Biden administration and Democrat prosecutors.

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