A Colorado judge on November 17 issued a stunning ruling that fell just short of removing Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist ban. The 102-page decision was a win for Trump, but it read more like a condemnation.
Nonetheless, it’s the latest legal victory for the GOP frontrunner, who has now defended his spot on the ballot in several key states, including Michigan and Minnesota, though appeals are underway.
Now the Colorado Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Wednesday on appeals to the November ruling.
The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, says officials who take an oath to support the Constitution are banned from future office if they “engaged in insurrection.” But the Constitution doesn’t say how to enforce the ban, and it has only been applied twice since 1919 – which is why many experts view these lawsuits as long shots.
Legal experts believe the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in, one way or another, before the 2024 primaries begin.
The Colorado ruling isn’t binding on other courts, but it’s the most comprehensive fact-finding to date by a judge about Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. And it could factor into future challenges that are brought for the general election or even to block Trump from taking office if he wins next November.
Here are some takeaways from the major ruling in Colorado:
Trump engaged in insurrection, judge says Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace concluded – based on testimony of US Capitol Police officers, lawmakers, clips from Trump’s January 6, 2021, speech and expert testimony about right-wing extremism – that Trump engaged in the January 6 insurrection.
This was a major legal hurdle that the challengers were able to overcome. And it’s the first time that any court in the country has ruled that Trump engaged in the insurrection, a watershed moment in the quest for accountability for January 6.
Wallace determined that Trump “actively primed the anger of his extremist supporters” and “acted with the specific intent to incite political violence and direct it at the Capitol.”
She also found that Trump “acted with the specific intent to disrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden’s electoral victory through unlawful means.”
While this lawsuit is not a criminal case, it is a highly notable finding. It aligns closely with the federal criminal charges filed by special counsel Jack Smith, who accused Trump of illegally obstructing the Electoral College proceedings.
It’s unclear how this could impact the criminal case. But very few judges in the country have examined Trump’s post-election conduct as closely as Wallace has in this litigation.
Keep reading takeaways here.