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The Colorado Supreme Court has done what almost half a dozen state supreme courts haven’t done yet: It issued a ruling declaring that former President Donald John Trump is disqualified to run for president in Colorado in 2024 because he incited and was involved in an insurrection, namely the January 6 riot at the US Capitol in 2021.
The historic 4-3 decision that CNN called “an unprecedented, freeze-in-your-tracks ruling,” is based on Section III of the 14th Amendment and bars Trump from appearing on the presidential primary ballot in Colorado. Other state courts could follow suit. Trump has appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court for a blanket decision.
“President Trump’s direct and express efforts, over several months, exhorting his supporters to march to the Capitol to prevent what he falsely characterized as an alleged fraud on the people of this country were indisputably overt and voluntary,” a majority of the justices wrote. “Moreover, the evidence amply showed that President Trump undertook all these actions to aid and further a common unlawful purpose that he himself conceived and set in motion: prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election and stop the peaceful transfer of power.”
Trump, twice impeached, four times indicted and facing 91 indictments in state and local jurisdictions, promised to appeal the ruling quickly setting up a potentially contentious battle before the far-right Republican-dominated US Supreme Court that could determine the fate of the 2024 election.
Judge J. Michael Luddig – a conservative pillar of the legal community and vocal critic of Trump, characterized the ruling as “masterful” and “unassailable.”
“I believe that as written, the disqualification clause as applied to the former president disqualifies him from holding the presidency again. And based on that view of the objective constitutional law, I believe the United States Supreme Court will affirm,” said Luttig, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for 15 years, from 1991 to 2006. “The opinion of the Colorado State Supreme Court was a masterful judicial opinion on the applicability of Section II of the 14th Amendment. It will stand the test of time, as they say, and I think the Supreme Court of the US ought to affirm this decision.”
Luttig, who has long warned of the clear and present danger Trump poses to America’s fragile democracy, refused during a recent late-night MSNBC interview to discuss any political implications of the Colorado verdict.
“… Based on the objective law in this instance, the 14th amendment of the Constitution, I believe that the Supreme Court of the United States will affirm this decision. I believe the sitting justices on the Supreme Court today, all nine of them, will apply the Constitution as it is written.”
Colorado’s Supreme Court put its ruling on hold until Jan. 4 so that Trump can ask the US Supreme Court for a full review. If he does, his name will automatically remain on the ballot until justices decide the appeal.
It didn’t take Trump long to take to social media to castigate the ruling and describe it as another chance to blame his enemies of conspiring to interfere with the election.
“What a shame for our country!!!” he wrote. “A sad day in America!!! …”
A story in The Hill noted that Trump also posted several clips from Fox News of pundits disagreeing with the Colorado ruling, including George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley.
“This country is a powder keg, and this court is just throwing matches at it. … For people that say they are trying to protect democracy, this is hands down the most anti-democratic opinion I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Turley told Fox News host Laura Ingraham which Trump posted to Truth Social.
It didn’t take long for Trump’s Republican opponents and supporters to rush to his aid.
Vivek Ramaswamy resolved to withdraw from the Colorado Republican primary ballot to protest the court’s ruling. He promised to stay off the ballot until Trump is restored. Ramaswamy also coaxed his colleagues to do the same.
“I pledge to withdraw from the Colorado GOP primary ballot until Trump is also allowed to be on the ballot, and I demand that Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie and Nikki Haley do the same immediately – or else they are tacitly endorsing this illegal maneuver which will have disastrous consequences for our country,” Ramaswamy said in a statement.
Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor, a harsh critic and thorn in Trump’s side on the campaign trail, sided with Trump and castigated the Colorado Supreme Court. He argued that while the ex-president is unfit to return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he said he believes no court should bar the former president from being on the ballot.
“I think he should be prevented from being the president of the United States by the voters of this country. I think it’s bad for the country if that happens,” Christie said during a New Hampshire Townhall.
The Colorado judges acknowledged the unusual nature of the case and echoed what many political pundits, observers and critics have said: that they are in uncharted territory, dealing with issues not seen before in this country. In American history, no president has ever tried to stage an insurrection to stay in power and judges have never had to consider these questions set before them.
“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the majority wrote. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”