Donald Trump ineligible for the US presidency, court rules

The stunning legal decision – which Trump's campaign said it would appeal – drew immediate condemnation from Republicans across the spectrum

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 20 Dec 2023, 10:54 AM

Donald Trump is ineligible for the US presidency because of his involvement in the January 2021 assault on the Capitol, Colorado's supreme court ruled Tuesday, setting off a political earthquake that could upend next year's election.

The stunning legal decision -- which Trump's campaign said it would appeal -- drew immediate condemnation from Republicans across the spectrum, and looked set to light a fire under the former reality TV star's claim to political persecution.

The ruling, which only applies to the Colorado primary ballot, is the first of a number of legal actions across the country to successfully invoke the US Constitution's 14th Amendment, which bars from office anyone formerly sworn to protect the country who later engages in insurrection.

"A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the Colorado high court wrote.

"Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado Secretary of State to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.

"We do not reach these conclusions lightly," the 4-3 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."

An earlier ruling by a lower court found that while Trump had clearly given succor to the January 6 riot, the office of president was not included in the list of federal elected positions affected by the 14th Amendment.

Noah Bookbinder of campaign group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which brought the original case, took to social media to hail Tuesday's ruling, calling it "a huge moment for democracy."

"It is not only historic and justified, but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country.

"Our Constitution clearly states that those who violate their oath by attacking our democracy are barred from serving in government."

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The court placed its ruling on hold until January 4, anticipating an appeal to the US Supreme Court, which Trump's campaign immediately said it would seek.

"We will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court and a concurrent request for a stay of this deeply undemocratic decision," campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Cheung said the "all-Democrat appointed" panel in Colorado was doing the bidding of a "(George) Soros-funded, left-wing group's scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden."

"Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead President Trump has amassed in the polls.

"They have lost faith in the failed Biden presidency and are now doing everything they can to stop the American voters from throwing them out of office next November."

The judgement brought swift rebukes from senior Republicans, including Trump's one-time rival for the 2016 nomination, Senator Marco Rubio.

"The US has put sanctions on other countries for doing exactly what the Colorado Supreme Court has done today," he wrote on social media.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -- who is running against Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination but has closely aligned himself with many of the former president's political positions -- said the US Supreme Court "should reverse" the Colorado ruling.

"The Left invokes 'democracy' to justify its use of power, even if it means abusing judicial power to remove a candidate from the ballot based on spurious legal ground," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Even as swathes of the traditional Republican Party are becoming increasingly exasperated with Trump and his brand of grievance-filled isolationism, a vocal grassroots movement continues to support him enthusiastically.

Failure to stand behind the presumed frontrunner against what he paints as a "witch hunt" can have dire consequences for even senior party figures.

Trump's historic indictments for allegedly leading a criminal conspiracy to steal the 2020 election -- one at the federal level and another in Georgia -- have opened a frenzied legal debate over his eligibility for future office.

The Colorado action is one of multiple 14th Amendment lawsuits against Trump proceeding nationwide. Minnesota's top court threw out a similar move last month.


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