Trump wins Colorado ballot disqualification case at US top court

AFP

The US Supreme Court has handed Donald Trump a major victory, barring states from disqualifying candidates for federal office under a constitutional provision involving insurrection and reversing Colorado's exclusion of him from its ballot.

The justices unanimously overturned a decision made in December 2023, by Colorado's top court to kick the former president off the state's Republican primary ballot after finding that the US Constitution's 14th Amendment disqualified him from again holding public office. The Colorado court had found that Trump took part in an insurrection for inciting and supporting the 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

The justices determined that only Congress can enforce the constitutional provision against federal officeholders and candidates but four of the nine justices, including the court's three liberal members, faulted the rest of the court for announcing rules limiting how the provision may be enforced in the future.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the US election in November. His only remaining rival for his party's nomination is former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

The ruling was issued on the eve of Super Tuesday, the day in the US presidential primary cycle when the most states hold party nominating contests.

It came five days after the justices agreed to decide Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution on charges related to trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. The court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, acted in a speedier manner in deciding the ballot disqualification issue, benefiting him, than it has in resolving the immunity question. Delays in deciding the immunity issue could help Trump by delaying his criminal trial.

The 14th Amendment's Section 3 bars from 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."

"We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency," the unsigned opinion for the court stated.

Trump welcomed the ruling, saying during an appearance in Florida: "Essentially, you cannot take somebody out of a race because an opponent would like to have it that way." Trump said he hoped the decision would help unify the country, but then lambasted political opponents and prosecutors behind four criminal cases against him.

Trump was also barred from the ballot in Maine and Illinois based on the 14th Amendment. Those decisions were put on hold pending the Supreme Court's ruling in the Colorado case.

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