The nation’s highest court heard arguments Thursday morning over whether to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the ballot in the 2024 presidential election.
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Trump’s attorney argued that, as president, he was not an “officer of the United States” as defined in the Constitution, and therefore the 14th Amendment — which bars people from holding public office if they have “engaged in insurrection” — does not apply.
An attorney representing Colorado voters who sued to get Trump off the ballot and Colorado Solicitor General Shannon Stevenson argued that the amendment does apply to Trump and that the state had the authority to enforce it.
See the latest updates from court:
Trump: Attorney’s argument in Supreme Court ‘was well received’
Update 12:50 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Trump told reporters on Thursday that the Colorado case and others he is facing in Florida, Georgia, New York and Washington are politically motivated and stem from the White House following Supreme Court arguments earlier in the day.
The former president said he watched the arguments Thursday and thought that “it’s a very beautiful process.”
Later, he said, “Every one of these cases you see comes out of the White House. It comes out of (President Joe) Biden. It’s election interference, and it’s really very sad.”
He added that he thought that the case from his attorney “was well received” by the Supreme Court.
“I hope it was well received,” he said. “You have millions of people that are out there wanting to vote and they happen to want to vote for me or the Republican party — whatever you want to, however you want to phrase it.”
Trump is facing a slew of legal issues, including 91 criminal charges related to alleged election subversion, his handling of classified records and money paid to women in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. He has denied wrongdoing, calling the cases part of a “witch hunt.”
Court adjourns after justices hear arguments in Trump ballot eligibility case
Update 12:25 p.m. EST Feb. 8: After a brief rebuttal from Trump attorney Jonathan Mitchell, the Supreme Court adjourned Thursday with plans to reconvene next week.
It was not immediately clear when the court would decide the case.
Colorado solicitor general answers questions
Update 12:20 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Appearing on behalf of the Colorado secretary of state, the state’s solicitor general, Shannon Stevenson, addressed the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Stevenson opened by noting that Colorado’s legislature “specifically directed Colorado’s courts to resolve any challenges to the listing of any candidate on the presidential primary ballot before Coloradans cast their votes.
“Despite this law, petitioner contends that Colorado must put him on the ballot because of the possibility there will be a supermajority act of Congress to remove his legal disability. Under this theory, Colorado and every other state would have to induldge this possibility not just for the primary, but through the general election and up to the moment that an ineligible candidate was sworn into office.”
Case ‘could come back with a vengeance’ if SCOTUS decides not to remove Trump, attorney says
Update 12:10 p.m. EST Feb. 8: The attorney representing Colorado voters who sued to remove Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot said that if the Supreme Court sides with the former president, the case “could come back with a vengeance.”
Attorney Jason Murray said that in that case, Congress might have to “make the determination after a presidential election, if President Trump wins, about whether or not he’s disqualified from office and whether to count votes cast for him under the Electoral Count Reform Act.”
Earlier, an attorney representing Trump told the court that Congress is the sole body with the role in determining whether a person is eligible to serve an office, saying a decision would be required after an election.
Justices share skepticism over booting Trump from ballot
Update 11:40 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Supreme Court judges sounded dubious of arguments offered by an attorney representing Colorado voters who sued to get Trump removed from the state’s 2024 primary ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause.
Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “other states may have different views about what constitutes insurrection,” and predicted that if the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is upheld, “surely there will be disqualification proceedings on the other side, and some of those will succeed.”
“Some of them will have different standards of proof,” he said. “Some of them will have different rules about evidence.”
The chief justice predicted that things would likely get political and allow “just a handful of states” to decide the election.
“A goodly number of states will say whoever the Democratic candidate is, you’re off the ballot, and others for the Republican candidate, you’re off the ballot,” he said.
Justice Kagan questions why single state should be able to determine ballot eligibility
Update 11:25 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Justice Elena Kagan asked Thursday why a single state — in this case, Colorado — should be able to decide who gets to run in a national election.
“I think the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to the be the president of the United States,” she said during questioning of the attorney representing the Colorado voters who sued to remove Trump from the ballot.
She added, “This question of whether a former president is disqualified for insurrection to be president again, is just — it sounds awfully national to me.”
Attorney representing voters who sued to remove Trump from ballot addresses court
Update 11:10 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Jason Murray, an attorney representing the Colorado voters who sued to get Trump off the ballot for the 2024 presidential election, has begun his argument before the Supreme Court.
“As we heard earlier, President Trump’s main argument is that this court should create a special exemption to Section 3 that would apply to him and him alone,” he said.
“He says Section 3 disqualifies all oath-breaking insurrectionists except a former president who never before held other state or federal office. There is no possible rationale for such an exemption.”
Trump attorney: Jan. 6, 2021 violence was a riot, not insurrection
Update 11:05 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Jonathan Mitchell, an attorney for Trump, argued that his client did not engage in insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, a key point in the ruling that found Trump ineligible to run for office under the 14th Amendment.
“For an insurrection, there needs to be an organized, concerted effort to overthrow the government of the United States through violence,” he said.
The answer prompted a response from Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who interrupted to ask, “So the point is that a chaotic effort to overthrow the government is not an insurrection?”
“No, we didn’t concede that it’s an effort to overthrow the government either, Justice Jackson,” Mitchell said. “None of these criteria were met. This was a riot. It was not an insurrection. The events were shameful, criminal, violent — all of those things, but it did not qualify as insurrection as that term is used in Section 3.”
An attorney representing the Colorado voters who sued to get Trump off the ballot will next address the court.
Justices focus on Trump attorney’s argument on difference between ‘officer,’ ‘officers of the United States’
Update 10:55 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Trump attorney Jonathan Mitchell told the Supreme Court that the term “officer of the United States” in the Constitution applies only “to those who are appointed, not to those who are elected.”
“There is this gap between the term ‘officer’ and the phrase ‘officers of the Untied States,’ reinforcing the idea that ‘officers of the United States’ is a term of art that doesn’t refer just to federal office holders … but refers only to those who are appointed, not to those who are elected,” he said.
Mitchell argued that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to presidents who haven’t held public office before, a claim that earned scrutiny from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“Under that reading, only the petitioner is disqualified because virtually every other president except Washington has taken an oath to protect the Constitution,” she said.
Mitchell answered that “it does seem odd that President Trump would fall through the cracks, in a sense.”
Congress has the role of determining eligibility for office, Trump attorney says
Update 10:40 a.m. EST Feb. 8: An attorney for Trump, Jonathan Mitchell, argued Thursday that “even if a candidate is an admitted insurrectionist,” the Constitution still allows them “to run for office and even win election to office.”
He said that after the election, Congress would have the ability to allow the person to take office or to disqualify them.
Trump attorney: Former president not an officer of the US under Constitution
Update 10:20 a.m. EST Feb. 8: Jonathan Mitchell, an attorney representing Trump, began addressing the court on Thursday with a brief opening statement in which he highlighted the claim that the 14th Amendment does not apply to Trump because, under the Constitution, he is not considered an officer of the United States.
Under the 14th Amendment, people are barred from holding public office if they have “engaged in insurrection” after swearing “as an officer of the United States … to support the Constitution.”
Mitchell called the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision “wrong” and said it “should be reversed for numerous, independent reasons.”
Update 10:13 a.m. EST Feb. 8: The Supreme Court has begun to hear arguments in the case seeking to remove Trump from the ballot in the 2024 presidential election.
Original report: The debate will center on a decision handed down in December by the Colorado Supreme Court which found that Trump engaged in insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol, making him ineligible to run for office. Under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, people are barred from holding public office if they have “engaged in insurrection” after swearing “as an officer of the United States … to support the Constitution.”
Attorneys representing Trump argued in a court briefing that the former president is not an “officer of the United States” under the Constitution and that, even if he was, “he did not ‘engage in’ anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection.’”
A crowd breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was gathered to formalize President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win over Trump. One person died in the chaos, which was also linked to four other deaths.
Trump has also been barred from appearing on Maine’s presidential primary ballot. That decision and the one out of Colorado have been put on hold to allow the latter case to go through the Supreme Court.
The former president is also facing federal charges in Washington, D.C., in connection with the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
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