Unprecedented Colorado ruling puts courts at the center of Trump’s fate next year

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, on December 19, 2023.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, on December 19, 2023.Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision that Donald Trump is constitutionally ineligible to appear on the ballot in next year’s state primary represents a stunning rebuke of the former president and a new level of accountability for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, threatening his 2024 electoral prospects in a way the four criminal indictments against him have not.

While the court’s 4-3 decision Tuesday may not ultimately lead to the former president’s removal from the ballot in Colorado or any other state – because of expected appeals – the ruling puts the country in uncharted territory, raising the shocking prospect that a major party’s candidate could be barred from office.

It’s perhaps the final exclamation point to cap off a year of unprecedented events encircling Trump, posing new and potentially grave challenges to American democracy heading into a tumultuous election year from a former president who embraces political chaos.

Outside of the courtroom, Trump has increasingly embraced inflammatory rhetoric, musing about being a dictator should he retake power next year and launching attacks against his opponents reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Trump repeated his incendiary comments about immigrants at an event in Iowa Tuesday evening, pushing back against criticism from the Biden campaign and others that he was echoing Adolf Hitler.

“It’s crazy what’s going on. They’re ruining our country. And it’s true, they’re destroying the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. They don’t like it when I said that,” Trump said. “And I’ve never read ‘Mein Kampf.’”

To Trump’s detractors, the Colorado decision signals that the legal system is finally beginning to hold the former president accountable for his efforts to overturn his election loss in 2020 and the attack on the US Capitol that unfolded on January 6, 2021.

“Accountability for inciting an insurrection. It’s about time,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led the House’s first impeachment against Trump.

But Tuesday’s ruling also could help propel Trump back to the White House, emboldening his supporters who have embraced the former president’s message that the criminal cases against him are unjustified and are a key reason he should be returned to power. Trump’s allies railed against the Colorado decision, coming to his defense just as they have following each of his four criminal indictments this year.

“Democrats are so afraid that President Trump will win on Nov 5th 2024 that they are illegally attempting to take him off the ballot,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the House’s No. 3 Republican, said in a statement.

Even former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the most prominent anti-Trump Republican running for president, was critical of the Colorado decision. “I don’t believe it’s good for our country if he’s precluded from the ballot by a court,” he told voters in New Hampshire.

Next year may end up as one of the most chaotic in American legal history.

The US Supreme Court will be faced with both deciding if Trump is eligible for the White House and whether he’s immune from prosecution for his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

“I can’t overstate the consequences of this evening, and I also want to stress how we now have two major, very critical Trump election issues barreling toward the court. They will have to decide both of these one way or another,” said CNN’s Senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

The former president has been indicted four times, with criminal trials that could play out at the same time he’s campaigning against President Joe Biden and potentially simultaneously fighting in court to get back on the ballot.

In a poll from The New York Times and Siena College released Tuesday, there was no clear leader between the two, with Trump taking 46% to Biden’s 44% among registered voters. Among those who are, at this early stage, considered likely to vote, Biden takes 47% to Trump’s 45%. Importantly for Trump, the Times/Siena survey finds the former president leading Biden among registered voters who did not participate in the 2020 election, a finding that mirrors other recent polling, CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy wrote.

Impact of the unprecedented ruling

Up until the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, the numerous court-driven efforts to disqualify Trump from the ballot were not succeeding at blocking him from office, as one state court after another ruled against the lawsuits. Even in Colorado, the trial judge concluded last month that Trump had engaged in an insurrection but that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” doesn’t apply to the presidency.

The Colorado Supreme Court reversed that finding on Tuesday. Now with that court’s unprecedented ruling, the notion of the courts removing Trump from the ballot in 2024 is no longer theoretical – it’s a real possibility.

In its decision, the state Supreme Court’s majority wrote that it had “little difficulty” in determining that January 6 was an insurrection. The court found that Trump “engaged in” the insurrection and that Trump’s messages to his supporters in the lead-up to the attack on the Capitol “were a call to his supporters to fight and that his supporters responded to that call.”

The four justices stressed that they “do not reach these conclusions lightly.”

“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the court’s majority wrote. “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.”

The three dissenting justices cited several reasons they disagreed with the majority, including due process concerns that Trump has not been convicted of any insurrection-related crime. Chief Justice Brian Boatright wrote in his dissent that he believes Colorado election law “was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection,” and said he would have dismissed the challenge to Trump’s eligibility.

Trump is not charged with engaging in an insurrection in the election subversion federal case against him brought earlier this year by special counsel Jack Smith. But the January 6-related charges involve many of the same actions cited by the Colorado court’s majority on Tuesday night.

The judge in Trump’s federal election subversion case had set a trial date for March 4, 2024, but that is now on hold as the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether Trump is immune and can be tried. In a bid to speed that appeals process, the special counsel has asked the US Supreme Court to step in.

It’s still unclear whether that trial or any of the other criminal charges against Trump will be heard before Election Day next year.

But the special counsel’s appeal to the US https://kebayangkali.com Supreme Court last week – and Trump’s plan to appeal the Colorado decision to the nation’s high court – means that the federal justices are all but assured to play a key role in both Trump’s legal and electoral fate next year.

“When Donald Trump was in office, every single case of his from administration policy to his own business cases that came to the court, they were all fraught,” Biskupic said, “and these are especially fraught because they will affect his election process.”

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