Recently, an attempt to employ the 14th Amendment’s ‘insurrection’ clause to bar former President Donald Trump from future ballots suffered a dismissal. This initiative, taking place in Wyoming, was promptly refuted by District Judge Misha Westby of Albany County. Judge Westby ascertained that any such judgement at this point would be premature, potentially breeding more controversy and uncertainty due to its speculative nature and lack of solid factual grounding.
Initiating this legal action was Tim Newcomb, a retired legal practitioner. In his motion filed on November 1, 2023, Newcomb primarily targeted Donald Trump and Senator Cynthia Lummis — a steadfast Wyoming Republican who held back from acknowledging President Joe Biden’s electoral win. The objective: to prevent the inclusion of Trump and Lummis’s names on Wyoming’s future ballots and reimburse any litigation-related expenses.
Penned as the favorite to secure the 2024 Republican presidential nomination according to numerous polls, Trump’s ballot eligibility is currently under review. While removed from the primary ballots in both Colorado and Maine under the 14th Amendment’s application, Trump’s legal team is fiercely appealing these rulings, turning no other than to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Late on a Friday afternoon, the Justices decided to consider an emergency appeal lodged by Trump’s legal representation. This decision came in the wake of the Colorado Supreme Court’s split 4-3 ruling in favor of Trump’s removal from the ballot. The Supreme Court has hence asked for all relevant briefs to be submitted by January 31, with a scheduled oral hearing on February 8.
The Supreme Court announcement read ‘The case is set for oral argument on Thursday, February 8, 2024.’ Further stipulating, ‘Petitioner’s brief on the merits, and any amicus curiae briefs in support or in support of neither party, are to be filed on or before Thursday, January 18, 2024.’ While this was happening, the Supreme Court also issued a temporary stay on Colorado’s decision, instructing the state to reinstate Trump on the ballot pending the final verdict.
The crux of this dispute rests on the interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s Section 3. According to this provision, any person found engaging in ‘insurrection or rebellion’ after having sworn allegiance to the Constitution becomes unfit to hold any civil or military office. Thus, Trump’s opposition argues that his alleged actions and influence on the 2020 election results, including his supposed role in the January 6 Congress incident, were tantamount to insurrection. Consequently, they believe he should, thus, be barred from future presidential pursuits.
The majority decision of the Colorado Supreme Court on December 19 found that Trump is ineligible for the state’s primary ballot. They reasoned that his conduct on and around January 6, 2021, ‘constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection.’ Bright on the heels of this verdict, Maine’s Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows—a Democrat—arrived at a similar conclusion.
Bellows stated that Trump ‘used a false narrative of election fraud to engender his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power.’ These decisions have sparked a robust response from Trump campaign representative Steven Cheung.
Cheung hit back fiercely, stating, ‘Make no mistake, these partisan election interference efforts are a hostile attack on the democratic fabric of America. President Biden and his Democratic allies do not trust the American populace to engage in a free and fair election process. As a result, they are resorting to leveraging the strength of governmental bodies to preserve their hold on power.’
Despite this, it’s important to note that Trump has yet to face formal charges, let alone a conviction, for insurrection. The American legal practice prides itself on its commitment to the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. As such, these ongoing legal ramifications involving former President Donald Trump prove a testament to the strength of these constitutional tenets, even when concerning the highest offices.