By Andrew Chung and John Kruzel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s lawyers urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a judicial decision disqualifying the former president from Colorado’s Republican primary ballot as the justices prepare to tackle the politically explosive case.
Trump’s lawyers in court papers presented the former U.S. president’s main arguments against a Colorado Supreme Court Dec. 19 ruling barring him from the primary ballot over his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, citing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The justices have scheduled oral arguments in the case for Feb. 8.
Trump’s lawyers urged the court to “put a swift and decisive end to these ballot-disqualification efforts,” noting that similar efforts were underway in more than 30 states.
Trump’s lawyers said the 14th Amendment provision does not apply to presidents, that the question of presidential eligibility is reserved to Congress, and that Trump did not participate in an insurrection.
The brief adheres to an accelerated schedule set by the justices on Jan. 5 when they agreed to take up the case. Colorado’s Republican primary is set for Mar. 5. Trump is the frontrunner for his party’s nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.
The plaintiffs – six conservative Republican or independent voters in Colorado – challenged Trump’s eligibility to run for office in light of his actions before the attack. They now have until Jan. 31 to respond to Trump’s filing.
The Colorado ruling marked the first time that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment – the so-called disqualification clause – was used to find a presidential candidate ineligible. 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 Colorado lawsuit is part of a wider effort to disqualify Trump from state ballots under the 14th Amendment, so the ruling by the justices may shape the outcome of that drive. For instance, Trump also has appealed to a Maine court a decision by that state’s top election official barring him from the primary ballot under the 14th Amendment. That case is on hold until the Supreme Court issues its ruling in the Colorado case.
The 14th Amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the American Civil War of 1861-1865 in which Southern states that allowed the practice of slavery rebelled in a bid for secession.
The Capitol rampage was a bid to prevent Congress from certifying 2020 Biden’s election victory over Trump, who gave an incendiary speech to his supporters beforehand, repeating his false claims of widespread voting fraud.
Trump also faces criminal charges in two cases related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election outcome.
The Colorado plaintiffs have emphasized the lower court’s findings that Trump’s intentional “mobilizing, inciting, and encouraging” of an armed mob to attack the Capitol meets the legal definition in Section 3. “This attack was an ‘insurrection’ against the Constitution by any standard,” they said in legal papers.
(Reporting by John Kruzel; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)