Efforts to remove former President Donald Trump from state ballots in the 2024 election are ramping up nationwide after critics argued the leading Republican contender is constitutionally disqualified from serving as president after he “engaged in insurrection” against the United States.
Trump, who is leading the GOP primaries by a landslide, faces four separate indictments along the East Coast, including charges related to hush money, classified documents, election interference, and racketeering. Trump has broadly denied any wrongdoing in the charges brought against him and has claimed politically motivated forces are targeting him in a “witch hunt” propagated by the Biden administration and Democrat prosecutors.
But now opponents across the political spectrum of the former president are arguing that under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Trump is barred from holding office ever again after the January 6 Capitol attack.
Lawrence Caplan, a Florida tax attorney, became the first to challenge Trump’s candidacy for president in federal court last week, pointing to the Amendment’s “disqualification clause” that says those who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government cannot hold office.
He told The Hill that the former president’s grand jury indictments in the Washington, D.C., election interference federal case and the Georgia case stemming from alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election make his disqualification automatic, despite neither indictment accusing Trump of inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol.
“The bottom line here is that President Trump both engaged in an insurrection and also gave aid and comfort to other individuals who were engaging in such actions, within the clear meaning of those terms as defined in Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Caplan wrote in a filing last week, challenging Trump’s eligibility to run for office again. “Assuming that the public record to date is accurate, and we have no evidence to the contrary, Trump is no longer eligible to seek the office of the President of the United States, or of any other state of the Union.”
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War during the Reconstruction Era and was designed to represent a new birth of freedom for previously disenfranchised citizens, according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute. The Amendment’s “disqualification clause” was written to bar those who had joined the Confederacy from serving in state or federal office, but would “theoretically still apply” to those who engage in future rebellions or insurrections against the U.S.
Two legal professors and members of the conservative Federalist Society, William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, endorsed the “self-executing” idea in the Pennsylvania Law Review, writing the clause “is alive and in force” and that if any government official “planned, supported, assisted, encouraged, endorsed, or aided in a material way those who engaged in the insurrection of January 6, or otherwise knowingly and willfully participated in a broader rebellion against the constitutional system, such persons are constitutionally disqualified from office.”
“In such situations, Section Three’s constitutional disqualifications can, should, and must be carried out,” Bode and Paulsen wrote.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during the GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee last week that he would “not going to support somebody who’s been convicted of a serious felony or who is disqualified under our Constitution.”
Former conservative 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig and liberal Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe published an article last week in The Atlantic claiming Trump’s effort to allegedly remain in power after the 2020 election “place him squarely within the ambit of the disqualification clause.”
Two civil rights organizations — Mi Familia Vota and Free Speech for People — also launched campaigns in July to pressure state officials in Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Georgia to disqualify Trump from appearing on ballots in those states in 2024, according to The Hill.
And Bryant “Corky” Messner, a former New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate in 2020 previously endorsed by Trump, announced plans to materialize the former president’s disqualification at the state level, ABC reported.
But despite the opposition from lawmakers, activists, and never-Trumpers, others warn against using the clause against the former president.
Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said the notion puts the Constitution in “grave danger.”
“It would put the decision about who the President is in the hands of local Secretaries of State and Democratic governors, instead of in the hands of the people,” Dershowitz told Just the News.
Constitutional law attorney and former Trump ally Jenna Ellis said in an X-post, “The Left is purposefully calling J6 an ‘insurrection’ to justify a baseless 14th Amendment challenge.”
“It’s like baselessly calling election challenges on behalf of a campaign “racketeering” to justify a RICO charge,” Ellis, who is also named a co-conspirator in Trump’s Georgia indictment, said.
And Fox News host Mark Levin slammed Judge Tribe and Harvard legal scholar Luttig for writing “a self-humiliating piece” in the leftwing Atlantic Monthly claiming the constitutional clause stops Trump from being elected president.
“This has to be one of the truly dumbest essays ever written on the subject,” Levin said in an X-post. “And it is something the Marxist left has been pushing for years against Trump. Trump aside, they are burning down one institution after another self-righteously claiming that they are standing up to tyranny and for the republic. I will address this on the air tonight.”
In April, Trump’s campaign team anticipated a wave of legal challenges thrown at the former president
“What these undemocratic organizations are doing is blatant election interference and tampering,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement to the Washington Post. “They are not even trying to hide it anymore and it is sad they want to deprive the American people of choosing Donald Trump — the overwhelming front-runner by far — as their President.”
“History will not judge them kindly,” Cheung added.