By Andrew Chung and John Kruzel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after Colorado’s top court disqualified him from the state’s Republican primary ballot for engaging in insurrection leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, is contesting the Dec. 19 Colorado Supreme Court decision that disqualified him under a constitutional provision barring anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.
The state high court had already put its decision on hold until Jan. 4, stating that Trump would remain on the ballot if he appealed.
Trump’s filing places a politically explosive case before the nation’s highest judicial body, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three of his own appointees. The justices’ action will shape a wider effort to disqualify Trump from other state ballots as the 2024 election draws closer.
In the filing, Trump’s lawyers asked the justices to “summarily reverse” the Colorado Supreme Court because the question of presidential eligibility is reserved for Congress.
The state court’s decision marks “the first time in the history of the United States that the judiciary has prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate,” the lawyers said, adding that the ruling “is not and cannot be correct.”
The Jan. 6 attack was an attempt by Trump’s supporters to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden, which Trump falsely claims was the result of fraud.
The Colorado court’s historic ruling marked the first time in history that Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment – the so-called disqualification clause – had been used to deem a presidential candidate ineligible for the White House.
Trump has also appealed to a Maine state court a decision by that state’s top election official barring him from the primary ballot under the same constitutional provision at issue in the Colorado case.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Republican and unaffiliated voters, and backed by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking to bar Trump from the nominating primary and future elections under the disqualification clause.
Section 3 bars from holding office any “officer of the United States” who took an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
The amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the American Civil War of 1861-1865 in which 11 southern states seceded from the union.
The 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court ruling reversed a lower court judge’s conclusion that Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting his supporters to violence, but as president, he was not an “officer of the United States” who could be disqualified under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Colorado court concluded that Trump’s role in instigating violence at the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the results of the 2020 election constituted engaging in insurrection, and that the presidency is covered by the insurrection provision.
“President Trump asks us to hold that Section Three disqualifies every oath-breaking insurrectionist except the most powerful one and that it bars oath-breakers from virtually every office, both state and federal, except the highest one in the land. Both results are inconsistent with the plain language and history of Section Three,” the majority wrote.
Acknowledging the magnitude of the case, the majority said, “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”
Trump’s lawyers argued that his speech to supporters on the day of the riot was protected by his right to free speech, adding that the constitutional amendment does not apply to U.S. presidents and that Congress would need to vote to disqualify a candidate.
Courts have rejected several lawsuits seeking to keep Trump off the primary ballot in other states. Minnesota’s top court rebuffed an effort to disqualify Trump from the Republican primary in that state but did not rule on his overall eligibility to serve as president.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and John Kruzel and Andrew Goudsward in WashingtonEditing by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)