The 14th Amendment disqualification trial against Donald Trump began in Colorado on Monday, as a group of voters seeks to utilize the Civil War-era amendment to remove the former president from the 2024 ballot.
The voters are citing Trump’s alleged role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection as the basis for their legal challenge.
In a Denver courtroom, Trump’s legal team clashed with the challengers, characterizing their case as an “anti-democratic” attempt to obstruct Trump’s campaign without allowing voters to have a say in the matter.
The challengers argued that their litigation is an unfortunate but necessary step to ensure a “fair” 2024 election by preventing an ineligible candidate from appearing on the ballot.
The trial revolves around Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies US officials who have “engaged in insurrection” or have “given aid or comfort” to insurrectionists from holding future office.
However, the Constitution needs to be more specific about how this ban should be enforced, and it has been used only twice since the 19th century.
The trial is expected to last for one week, with the judge aiming to issue her decision by Thanksgiving to allow time for appeals before the ballot-printing process begins in January for the GOP primary in Colorado on March 5, 2024.
The lawyers representing the Republican and independent voters who filed the lawsuit emphasized in their opening statements that their goal is to ensure a fair election among eligible candidates.
Their case is supported by the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Eric Olson, an attorney for the challengers, stated, “Our Constitution prevents people who betrayed their solemn oath, as Trump did here, from serving in office again. Colorado law gives these voters the right to make sure their votes will count by coming to this court and ensuring that only eligible candidates appear on our ballots. Trump engaged in insurrection, and therefore cannot appear on the ballot.”
Trump’s Involvement in Capitol Attack: Trial Evidence
The presentation included footage from the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and clips from the 2020 campaign in which Trump made controversial statements, including his infamous remark to the right-wing Proud Boys group to stand back and stand by.
Connecting Trump to the violence is a crucial aspect of the voters’ case. Citing evidence from the January 6 committee, Olson claimed that Trump “summoned and organized” the mob and “knew” they were “armed and dangerous.”
Trump’s lawyer, Scott Gessler, criticized the proceedings, calling the case “weak,” “anti-democratic,” and based on “fringe” theories. He urged the judge not to “interfere” with the 2024 election by removing Trump from the ballot.
A central argument in Trump’s defense is that the January 6 insurrection did not meet the criteria of an insurrection as envisioned by the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in response to the Civil War.
During the trial, Rep. Eric Swalwell testified for the anti-Trump challengers, describing the “haunting” experience of sheltering in the House chamber on January 6 while the right-wing mob surrounded the area.
Swalwell’s testimony aimed to connect Trump’s actions and words to the violent rampage by his supporters.
Outside of the courtroom, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed hope that the trial would guide Trump’s eligibility for the ballot. Griswold stated that it’s an unprecedented situation where a former president who incited an insurrection seeks to run again.
There are genuine questions about whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies him.
The lawsuit named Trump and Griswold as defendants. Griswold, a Democrat, has not taken a position on Trump’s disqualification and has stated that she will follow the judge’s orders.
Griswold emphasized that the lawsuit is an appropriate mechanism to address these issues and dismissed concerns that it could be seen as a political abuse of the legal process, emphasizing the importance of upholding the integrity of elections.
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