U.S. Supreme Court allows Trump to stay on Colorado primary ballot

U.S. Supreme Court allows Trump to stay on Colorado primary ballot

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday restored Donald Trump to this year's presidential primary ballots, rejecting state attempts to hold the Republican former president accountable for his actions leading to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

The justices unanimously ruled that without action from Congress in D.C. first, states cannot invoke a post-Civil War constitutional provision to keep presidential candidates from appearing on ballots.

The opinion was handed down in a case involving Trump's removal from the Colorado primary ballot. It comes a day before Super Tuesday contests in Colorado and 15 other states, where Trump could amass an insurmountable lead over Nikki Haley in Republican delegates in his bid to be the presidential nominee.

Since the Colorado Supreme Court ruling against Trump last December, he has also been barred from primary ballots in Illinois and Maine, though both decisions, along with Colorado's, were on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Trump's case was the first at the Supreme Court dealing with a provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was adopted after the Civil War to prevent former officeholders who "engaged in insurrection" from holding office again.

WATCH l Recapping the arguments in the Colorado case:

U.S. Supreme Court grills lawyers in Trump disqualification case | About That

25 days ago

Duration 9:37

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether former president Donald Trump is constitutionally ineligible to hold office again after the Colorado Supreme Court voted to remove him from that state’s ballot. Andrew Chang breaks down key arguments from the proceedings.

Colorado's Supreme Court, in a first-of-its-kind ruling, had decided that the provision, Section 3, could be applied to Trump, whom court found incited the Capitol attack. No court before had applied Section 3 to a presidential candidate.

"To allow Colorado to take a presidential candidate off the ballot under Section 3 would imperil the Framers' vision of "a Federal Government directly responsible to the people," the justices wrote.

Trump posted on his social media network shortly after the decision was released: "BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!"

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed disappointment in the court's decision as she acknowledged that "Donald Trump is an eligible candidate on Colorado's 2024 Presidential Primary."

'Daunting consequence': chief justice

Lawyers for Republican and independent voters who sued to remove Trump's name from the Colorado ballot had argued that there is ample evidence that the events of Jan. 6 constituted an insurrection and that it was incited by Trump, who had exhorted a crowd of his supporters at a rally outside the White House to "fight like hell." They said it would be absurd to apply Section 3 to everything but the presidency or that Trump is somehow exempt.

Trump's lawyers mounted several arguments for why the amendment can't be used to keep him off the ballot. They contended the Jan. 6 riot wasn't an insurrection and, even if it was, Trump did not go to the Capitol or join the rioters. The wording of the amendment also excludes the presidency and candidates running for president, they said. Even if all those arguments failed, they said, Congress must pass legislation to reinvigorate Section 3.

A small handful of people stand outside the steps to an august building holding signs at a demonstration. A woman holds signs that say 'Trump is a traitor' and 'Are these hollow halls of justice.'
Demonstrators hold up signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 8, when arguments were made before the court on whether Donald Trump is ineligible for the 2024 ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said if the Colorado decision is upheld, other states will proceed with disqualification proceedings of their own for either Democratic or Republican candidates.

"And it will come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election. That's a pretty daunting consequence," Roberts said.

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 14th Amendment.

Read the Court's decision:

Immunity, obstruction decisions loom

It won't be the last word the Supreme Court has on cases involving Trump, and therefore the presidential race. The top court confirmed last week it will consider the question of "whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office."

The court will hear arguments in late April, with a ruling within several weeks of that date.

Trump's lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse President Joe Biden's election victory over him in 2020 because he was president at the time, a sweeping assertion of immunity firmly rejected by lower courts.

The Supreme Court in the coming weeks will also review a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, pertaining to three people charged in connection with the 2021 Capitol riot. A district judge in Pennsylvania had earlier ruled that prosecutors had stretched the law beyond its scope in one of the applicable cases.

It is possible, though not guaranteed, that a ruling in that case could affect Trump. Among the four counts special counsel Jack Smith has indicted Trump with in a federal election interference case are charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, as well as attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.

Trump has argued that all four criminal cases he faces are partisan prosecutions led by overzealous Democratic officials, and that they amount to election interference, although in each case the probes began before he announced his intention in November 2022 to run for president again.

Trump faces a criminal trial in exactly three weeks in New York. He has been accused of falsifying business records to cover up hush-money payments to three people so that allegations of extramarital affairs would not come to light during the 2016 presidential election. Adult film performer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal each have alleged.