In a highly anticipated ruling, a Colorado court has delivered a mixed verdict on former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to run for office in the future. The court found that Trump had indeed engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021, but ultimately ruled that he could not be disqualified from the ballot due to a narrow interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by a group of Colorado voters who argued that Trump’s actions on January 6 met the criteria for disqualification under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits individuals who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion from holding office.
Judge Sarah Wallace, who presided over the case, largely sided with the plaintiffs in her initial findings. She rejected Trump’s attempts to dismiss the case on technical grounds, admitted the House January 6 committee’s report into evidence, and found several of Trump’s witnesses to be unreliable.
Wallace also concluded that Trump had played a significant role in inciting the violence on January 6, stating that “Trump materially aided the attack on the Capitol” by sending his supporters to the building. She further rejected Trump’s claims that his actions were protected by the First Amendment, noting that his words and actions went beyond mere political rhetoric and amounted to a direct attempt to incite violence.
However, in a surprising turn, Wallace ultimately ruled that Trump could not be disqualified from the ballot because the presidency is not explicitly listed among the offices covered by Section 3. While the amendment broadly disbars individuals from holding “any office, civil or military, under the United States,” Wallace concluded that this did not encompass the presidency.
This interpretation has been met with widespread criticism, with many legal experts arguing that it is a misreading of the amendment’s clear intent. The amendment’s framers specifically discussed the possibility of excluding the presidency from Section 3 but ultimately decided against it, indicating that they intended for the president to be subject to the same disqualification provisions as other officials.
Wallace’s decision has been characterized as a “fumble” by many observers, who point out that she had effectively laid the groundwork for disqualifying Trump but then failed to follow through due to her narrow interpretation of the amendment.
Despite this setback, the plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the ruling, and it is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. The high court will then have the opportunity to resolve the ambiguity in the amendment and determine whether Trump’s actions on January 6 disqualify him from holding office in the future.
The Colorado court’s ruling highlights the complexities of interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment and the challenges of holding high-ranking officials accountable for their actions. While Wallace’s decision was based on a technicality, it has raised serious questions about the limits of presidential power and the potential for abuse of office. The ultimate resolution of this case will have far-reaching implications for American democracy and the ability to hold those in power responsible for their actions.