The Colorado Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Donald Trump will not appear on the ballot in 2024 because he is an insurrectionist and the 14th Amendment does not permit insurrectionists to hold federal office. Some of you may recall our August 2023 post on this matter. Both J. Michael Luttig, a retired George W. Bush-appointed federal judge whose judicial philosophy has drawn comparisons to the late Antonin Scalia, and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe (who taught constitutional law to Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito), believe that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies Trump.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment reads:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Here is a taste of Jordan Rubin’s interview with Luttig at MSNBC.Com:
Jordan Rubin: Judge, you’ve been thinking a lot lately about this 14th Amendment issue. Why is it so important to democracy, in your view?
J. Michael Luttig: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment … disqualifies any person who, having taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, thereafter engages in an insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution of the United States, disqualifying that person from holding high public office in the future, including the presidency.
So it’s more than just a proscription and disqualification for anti-democratic conduct by an individual, but, in this circumstance, it is that and it would apply in this instance to disqualify the former president from holding the presidency again, because of his effort, plan and attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, knowing that he had lost that election to then-candidate Joe Biden.
This is very, very important: Section 3 disqualifies one who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution of the United States, not an insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or the authority of the United States. And so that’s the issue in Colorado and in Minnesota, and in the other states that are currently involved in the constitutional process to determine whether the former president is disqualified.
JR: What do you think of criticism that suggests it’s wrong to keep Trump off the ballot using this process, as opposed to “letting the voters decide,” as a critic would say?
JML: I have seen that criticism, if you will, of applying Section 3 to the former president. And it concerned me because it’s a legitimate question to be asked. But I’ve responded publicly to that concern by explaining that the disqualification that’s provided for under Section 3 is not itself anti-democratic at all. Rather, it’s the conduct that can result in disqualification under the 14th Amendment that the Constitution says is anti-democratic. So there’s no question whatsoever that disqualification of an individual who satisfies the conditions of disqualification in Section 3 is not anti-democratic.
Again, it’s the conduct that gives rise to disqualification that the Constitution tells us is anti-democratic.
JR: Sometimes when I’ve heard these criticisms, it almost sounds like more of a criticism against the Constitution itself — sort of a problem with having the ability to take someone off the ballot — more than an application of it.
JML: That’s exactly the way to think of it. And another way of saying it is: it is the Constitution itself that provides for disqualification. So there’s no possible way that the Constitution itself can be understood as anti-democratic.
JR: As you mentioned, we have these cases that are playing out across the country. Whatever happens in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan or wherever else, the issue has to get to the Supreme Court somehow, doesn’t it?
JML: It does. This is the process contemplated by the Constitution. And the Constitution likewise contemplates that this decision will ultimately be entrusted to the Supreme Court of the United States, which will interpret the language, the clear language, of Section 3, and decide whether or not the former president is disqualified.
JR: To ask the natural follow-up, do you have any inkling about how the Supreme Court might look at this issue?
JML: I would only say this: All that any of us are able to do is evaluate the positive, objective law — in this instance, the Constitution and Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Under the plain, clear terms of Section 3, the former president would be disqualified from holding the presidency again — specifically, for the reason that his plan and effort and attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and remain in power, notwithstanding that the American people had voted to confer the powers of the presidency on Joe Biden, constitutes a clear violation of the Executive Vesting Clause in the Constitution, which prescribes that a president will hold office for only a four-year term, unless and until he is re-elected to the presidency by the American people. The former president’s effort to overturn the election and remain in power is precisely what constitutes a rebellion against the Constitution of the United States.
Read the rest here.