In a case that has much of the country in suspense, the United States Supreme Court will debate this Thursday whether Donald Trump should be banned from running for office November presidential elections.
The nine justices must answer one question: Can Trump's name appear on the Republican presidential primary ballots in the state of Colorado due to his alleged role in the attack by his supporters on the Capitol on January 6, 2021?
The Colorado Supreme Court, citing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ruled in December that Trump, the heavy favorite for the 2024 Republican nomination, must be excluded from the ballot for this reason.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone from holding public office if they have participated in an “insurrection or rebellion” after having promised to defend Magna Carta.
The amendment, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, was intended to prevent supporters of the slaveholding Confederacy from being elected to Congress or holding federal office.
The US Supreme Court, in Washington, scene of a historic decision on Donald Trump's candidacy. Photo: AP
Trump, 77, appealed to the Supreme Court to dismiss the Colorado ruling and similar proposals in other states to keep him out of the elections.
The conservative-majority court, which includes three justices appointed by Trump, has set aside 80 minutes for oral arguments, but they are expected to last longer.
The Court has traditionally been reluctant to get involved in political issues, but this year it is forced to speak out.
In addition to the Colorado case, the court could also accept Trump's appeal against a lower court ruling that as a former president he does not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution and may be tried on conspiracy charges to alter the outcome of the 2020 election.
What Trump's defense says
Steven Schwinn, professor of constitutional law at the University of Illinois, Chicago, estimates that any ruling will be interpreted by the population as “interference in the elections.”
For Colorado Justice, Trump participated in a “rebellion” on January 6, 2021, with the storming of the Capitol. Photo: REUTERS
“If they disqualify Trump, Trump's supporters will think that it interferes in the elections” and if not, his opponents will think the same, Schwinn said.
Trump's lawyers insist that “the American people, not the courts or election officials, should choose the next president of the United States.”
“At least 60 state and federal courts across the country have refused to remove President Trump from the ballots,” they say. “The Colorado Supreme Court is the only outlier,” they note.
The lawyers therefore call on the Supreme Court to “protect the rights of the tens of millions of Americans who want to vote for President Trump.”
According to them, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment can only be enforced by “methods enacted by Congress” and not through state courts. Nor should it apply to the former Republican president – they say – because it refers to “officials of the United States”, that is, appointed and non-elected positions.
Furthermore, they insist, the magnate “did not 'participate' in anything that constituted 'insurrection'.”
“There was no 'insurrection,'” they argued. “The events of January 6 were not an 'insurrection,' as they did not involve an organized attempt to overthrow or resist the United States government.”
Trump pronounced a fiery speech before thousands of supporters in Washington on January 6, 2021 before they headed to the Capitol in an attempt to block Congress' certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
The House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, accused him of inciting an insurrection, but the Senate acquitted him.