(This Jan. 18 story has been corrected to rectify the name of Washington’s capital city from Columbia to Olympia in paragraph 7)
By Joseph Ax and Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) – Donald Trump can remain on Washington state’s Republican presidential primary ballot, a judge ruled on Thursday, rejecting the latest effort to disqualify the former president from running again based on his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss.
As in other states, the voters who filed the challenge in Washington argued that Trump is ineligible to run for the presidency based on his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when he delivered a fiery speech before a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment bars anyone who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office.
Similar complaints have been brought in dozens of states, but only two – Colorado and Maine – have removed Trump from the ballot.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Trump’s appeal of the Colorado ruling in February, in a case that will likely determine whether other challenges can proceed.
Trump’s lawyers on Thursday filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to reverse the Colorado decision and laying out their main arguments.
While Trump faces four criminal cases, including for his attempts to overturn the election, he has not been charged with insurrection.
Judge Mary Sue Wilson in Thurston County, the home of Washington’s capital Olympia, found on Thursday that the secretary of state had “acted consistent with his duties” by accepting the candidates, including Trump, submitted by the Republican and Democratic parties.
In other news from the campaign trail:
THIRD-PARTY GROUP ASKS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO PROBE DEMOCRATS
The leaders of No Labels, a group preparing a potential third-party presidential bid, have asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Democratic-leaning groups and activists working to thwart those efforts.
The group on Thursday said a public and private pressure campaign by Democrats and allies of President Joe Biden goes beyond legally protected political speech.
“There is a group of activists, operatives and party officials who are participating in an alleged illegal conspiracy to use intimidation, harassment and fear against representatives of No Labels, its donors and its potential candidates,” Dan Webb, a No Labels leader and former U.S. attorney, said during a press conference in Washington.
No Labels, which has yet to name a candidate, has already raised more than $60 million and has qualified in 14 states, including swing states Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina.
Democrats fear a centrist third-party bid would splinter their party while Trump’s loyal base sticks with him.
No Labels identified Democratic-aligned groups including American Bridge, Third Way and MoveOn as part of the alleged conspiracy.
American Bridge President Pat Denis called the No Labels complaint “frivolous” and accused the group of having a “weak chin.”
MoveOn did not return a request for comment, and Third Way declined to comment. The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.
HALEY, TRUMP SKIP DEBATE STAGE IN FAVOR OF CABLE TV
Donald Trump has skipped all five Republican presidential debates thus far, a not-so-subtle way of telling voters that the events – and, by extension, his rivals – were unworthy of his attention.
That strategy was largely validated after Trump’s blowout victory on Monday in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest over former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Now Haley is taking a page from Trump’s playbook, skipping what was to be the sixth debate on Thursday night in favor of a CNN town hall. She announced she would no longer debate unless Trump participated.
Trump, meanwhile, will sit down for a friendly interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. DeSantis took part in his own CNN town hall on Tuesday, where he attacked Haley and Trump for refusing to debate him.
Haley’s decision was aimed at marginalizing DeSantis ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in New Hampshire, where polls show Haley all alone behind Trump in second place. DeSantis barely registers at around 5% in New Hampshire and has turned his focus to more conservative South Carolina – Haley’s home state – which will hold its primary on Feb. 24.
On Monday night, despite finishing behind DeSantis in the caucuses, Haley nevertheless declared that the results meant the race had come down to her versus Trump.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Ax; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)