Trump urges Supreme Court to allow him to stay on the ballot

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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump on Thursday pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow him to remain on the Republican primary ballot in Colorado as he seeks to overturn a state ruling that found him ineligible because of his role leading up to the Jan. 6. attack on the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers filed a brief laying out his position ahead of oral arguments scheduled for Feb. 8.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 19 that a clause in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that prohibits “an officer of the United States” who “engaged in insurrection” from running for various federal offices applied to Trump.

The case raises various previously undecided legal questions, including whether the constitutional language applies to those running for president and who gets to decide whether someone engaged in insurrection.

In Thursday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers touched upon those themes, saying that a president is not an “officer of the United States,” that Trump did not “engage in insurrection” and that only Congress can enforce the provision in question.

“The court should put a swift and decisive end to these ballot-disqualification efforts, which threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans and which promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

The state high court’s decision reversed a lower court’s ruling in which a judge said that Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting the riot on Jan. 6 but that presidents are not subject to the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment because they are not an “officer of the United States.”

The state court said its ruling would remain on hold indefinitely once Trump appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Interest in the Colorado case was heightened when Maine’s top election official concluded that Trump was ineligible to appear on the Republican primary ballot in that state, too. That case was put on hold, meaning Trump remains on the ballot for now, and Trump’s appeal has also been stayed pending resolution of the Supreme Court case.

The high court’s ruling could have ramifications in all 50 states, a point made on Thursday by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief stressing the need for a definitive decision on the issue. She mentioned that a similar challenge was filed in Michigan and although it failed in relation to the Republican primary, it could be revived for the general election in November.

“These questions must be fully answered now because election officials, like the Secretary, need to know whether the former president is eligible to appear on the ballot as a candidate, and voters deserve to know whether he is eligible to hold the office of president before casting their votes,” Benson’s lawyers wrote. Benson did not take a position on whether Trump should be deemed ineligible.

Dozens of other briefs have been filed in the case so far, including one backing Trump submitted by 179 Republican members of Congress led by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Trump discussed the Supreme Court case during an interview that aired Thursday night on Fox News.

“We put on three great justices, and you have some other great justices up there, and they’re not going to take the vote away from the people,” Trump said in an interview with Sean Hannity.

Trump nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The initial lawsuit was filed on behalf of six Colorado voters by the left-leaning government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and two law firms. They and their supporters have a Jan. 31 deadline to file their own briefs to the Supreme Court.

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