DENVER (CN) — When Colorado prints primary ballots in January, former President Donald Trump’s name will be listed among the candidates running to represent the state Republican Party, a Denver judge ruled Friday.
“To be clear, part of the court’s decision is its reluctance to embrace an interpretation which would disqualify a presidential candidate without a clear, unmistakable indication that such is the intent of Section Three,” wrote Second Judicial District Judge Sarah Wallace in an 102-page opinion.
Four Republican and two independent voters sued Colorado’s secretary of state in the District Court of Denver County in September, angling keep Trump’s name off the primary ballot. The voters claim Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election — culminating in his Jan. 6 speech — disqualify him from holding office.
Passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, the law bars individuals from holding office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” while under the oath of office. The ban can be overturned by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and Senate.
Wallace found Trump incited an insurrection against the Constitution, but she was not convinced that the Fourteenth Amendment’s description of “an officer of the United States” explicitly included the president.
In a footnote, she wondered whether this was an oversight and pointed to the narrow gap Trump squeezed through as a rare person elected president without having previously held office.
Wallace, who was appointed by the state’s Democratic governor in January, presided over a five-day court trial on the matter in October. The petitioning voters picked apart tweets Trump posted following the 2020 election sowing doubt in the results and inviting supporters to gather in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Ultimately the petitions persuaded Wallace that Trump engaged in insurrection.
"The court concludes, based on its findings of fact and the applicable law detailed above, that Trump incited an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 and therefore ‘engaged’ in insurrection within the meaning of Section Three of the 14th Amendment,” Wallace wrote. “The court concludes that Trump acted with the specific intent to disrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden’s electoral victory through unlawful means.”
Trump intervened in the case when it became apparent Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, did not intend to mount a strong defense. Trump's legal expert successfully cast doubt on whether the 14th Amendment applies to the president.
“We applaud today’s ruling in Colorado, which is another nail in the coffin of the un-American ballot challenges,” said Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesperson via email. “The American voter has a Constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choosing, with President Donald J. Trump leading by massive numbers.”
The ruling falls in line with other states' proceedings. Similar cases have been filed in Michigan and New Hampshire. While New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan confirmed his intent to print Trump’s name on the ballot, the Michigan Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court’s dismissal that also favored Trump.
The nonprofit Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sponsored the lawsuit. The voter petitioners include former Colorado House and Senate Majority leader Norma Anderson, former Republican congresswoman Claudine Schneider and the Denver Post conservative columnist Krista Kafer.
Attorneys from the organization saw success Wallace’s nuanced opinion in that it affirmed Trump engaged in insurrection.
“We are proud to have brought this historic case and know we are right on the facts and right on the law,” said Noah Bookbinder, CREW president in a statement. “When we filed this case, we knew it likely would not end at the district court level.”
Bookbinder said he intends to appeal the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court.Follow @bright_lamp
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