He still calls them upstanding patriots, his supporters who occupied the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to prevent the election of Joe Biden as the new US President. The courts see it a little differently than Donald Trump. They have already convicted 723 defendants in connection with the storming of the Capitol, two-thirds of whom ended up in prison.
The Supreme Court in the state of Colorado has now made a judgment on the ringleader. Not a criminal one, but a historical one. “The Court finds, based on clear and convincing evidence, that President Trump engaged in insurrection,” the justices wrote in their 213-page considerations. The US Constitution prohibits the Republican from holding public office in the United States again. Trump is therefore not allowed to be listed on the ballot papers in the Colorado primaries, and if voters write him down anyway, the Colorado Secretary of State is not allowed to count the votes.
The verdict is historic because it is the first time in US history that a presidential candidate has been disqualified from the election because he is an insurrectionist. The said amendment to the US Constitution, the 14th Amendment, dates back to the time when the country was trying to cope with the consequences of the bloody civil war. Paragraph 3 of the amendment bans any public official who takes part in an insurrection despite having previously sworn an oath to the Constitution. In 1868 this primarily meant the secessionists who were committed to the Confederate States.
Now, 155 years later, this constitutional amendment applies to Donald Trump, according to four of the seven justices on the Colorado Supreme Court. “We do not reach this conclusion lightly,” they write. But they have a duty to apply the law “without fear and without favoritism, and without allowing ourselves to be influenced by public reactions.” The justices did not make their rulings along party lines – they were all appointed by Democratic governors, albeit after a bipartisan nomination. The only Republican, Court President Brian Boatright, does not share the majority opinion in the latest ruling.
Donald Trump doesn’t have much to lose in Colorado: in 2020 he only had 42 percent of the vote there, Biden won with 55 percent. The ten electoral votes from the Rocky Mountain state are likely to go to the Democratic candidate in 2024. However, the ruling has a signal effect for other states in which similar lawsuits are pending. The Minnesota Supreme Court has already concluded that it cannot remove candidates from the primary election lists. But it left open the question of whether it would disqualify Trump from the November 8 election. In Michigan, a judge ruled in November that it was a political question whether Trump should be allowed to run again. The case is now before the state Supreme Court. If the favorite among the Republican presidential candidates is removed from the electoral rolls in several states, his chances of winning a majority of the electoral votes that decide the presidential election next fall would be severely diminished.
Trump said he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court in Washington. During an appearance in Iowa on Tuesday evening, he didn’t even address the judge’s ruling. Within minutes, however, it was clear on his campaign website and in emails how he plans to monetize the recent verdict against him and use it to collect donations. “Crooked Joe”, the fraudulent Joe, could not defeat him at the ballot box, claims Trump, who lost to this same Joe in 2020. “Now their new plan is to cancel every single Trump ballot in the country to keep Joe Biden in the White House.” The former president, who spread the myth that the election was stolen from him after his defeat in 2020, is already preparing to claim the same about the next ballot in less than a year.
Now the Supreme Court in Washington must decide whether to include the complaint on its agenda. This has to happen quickly: Colorado’s primary election takes place on Super Tuesday, March 5th. If the Supreme Court does not consider Trump’s complaint, the Denver ruling would become final. It is unclear how the nine federal judges will decide. However, Trump can expect better chances than in Colorado. As president, he gave the conservative federal judges a clear majority with two appointments, who have already made numerous rulings to Trump’s liking. In addition, one of the judges, Clarence Thomas, is married to the lawyer Ginni Thomas. In 2020, she discussed ways to overturn the election results in text messages to Trump’s chief of staff, and in Wisconsin she urged Republican officials to throw the Electoral College votes to Trump instead of Biden.
“Judges shouldn’t make decisions like that. Voters should make decisions like that.”
There are already several cases before the Supreme Court regarding Donald Trump and his attempted coup. One is about whether the Republican enjoys immunity for his actions as president. The question was submitted by special prosecutor Jack Smith, who indicted Trump on January 6, 2021 and in another indictment accuses him of being careless with secret documents. In another case, the Supreme Court will rule on whether a Jan. 6 defendant was properly prosecuted for disrupting a session of Congress. The ruling could impact Trump’s case, which is accused by special counsel Jack Smith of the same.
An organization called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is behind the lawsuits in Colorado, Minnesota and Michigan. She supported the six Republicans and independents in Colorado who filed the complaint. President Noah Bookbinder welcomed the ruling. “It is not only historic and justified, but necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country.” Republicans, however, criticized the judge’s ruling. Nikki Haley, the second-place Republican presidential candidate, said in Iowa that Trump should no longer be president, but that she wanted to defeat him in an open election. “Judges shouldn’t make decisions like that. Voters should make decisions like that.”
So far, there is little evidence that the various legal proceedings have harmed Donald Trump, at least not among Republican voters. He leads the polls for the primaries by a wide margin. Likewise, many Americans do not seem to be impressed by the fact that Trump and his entourage are already making plans to fill the government and administration with loyalists who would be unconditionally loyal to the leader. Trump makes fun of warnings about his authoritarian behavior. He said recently that he only wanted to be a dictator on his first day in office. After the Colorado verdict, he is now trying to turn the tables. Although there is no evidence of this, Trump claims that Joe Biden and the Democrats engineered the verdict against him: “This is how a dictatorship is born.”