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Trump appeals Maine decision to block him from 2024 ballots

The former president faces a growing list of legal challenges surrounding his eligibility to hold public office

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 02 January 2024 22:59 GMT
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Maine secretary of state explains why Trump is disqualified from 2024 ballots

Donald Trump’s attorneys have appealed a decision from Maine’s top elections official to remove him from 2024 presidential ballots for his actions surrounding the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Last week’s decision from Maine’s secretary of state Shenna Bellows challenges his eligibility under a provision of the 14th Amendment, which bars any person who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.

The attack, fuelled by the former president’s false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, was “an attack not only upon the Capitol and government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law,” she wrote.

“The evidence here demonstrates that they occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing president,” according to her order. “The US Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundation of our government.”

Her decision followed last month’s historic ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court, which similarly disqualified the former president from appearing on the state’s 2024 presidential ballots, the first court ruling to do so amid a wave of lawsuits challenging his eligibility under the scope of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Mr Trump’s appeal now heads to Maine’s superior court.

His attorneys also are imminently expected to formally appeal the Colorado decision directly to the US Supreme Court, teeing up a politically explosive case at the nation’s highest court that could have resounding impacts across Mr Trump’s campaign and 2024 elections.

The Supreme Court has never issued a decision related to Section 3.

Last week, attorneys for Colorado Republicans pressed the Supreme Court to reverse the Colorado decision, arguing that the state justices’ interpretation of Section 3 will open the door for anyone to challenge candidates’ eligibility, and that there is “a real risk” that the “flawed and unprecedented analysis will be borrowed, and the resulting grave legal error repeated.”

The nonpartisan watchdog group that launched the Colorado challenge asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to resolve the case on an “expedited timetable” ahead of the state’s 5 March elections, “so that voters in Colorado and elsewhere will know whether Trump is indeed constitutionally ineligible when they cast their primary ballots.”

The decision from Maine’s top elections official followed three separate challenges to Mr Trump’s eligibility from Maine residents and a group of elected officials. State protocol obligates the secretary of state to hear such challenges first.

After reviewing arguments last month, she invited Mr Trump and the plaintiffs to file briefs addressing the impact of the case. She also extended a timeline for a decision to give the parties additional time to submit briefs and review them.

But in Mr Trump’s notice of appeal on Tuesday, his attorneys claimed that the process was “infected by bias and pervasive lack of due process” and “is arbitrary, capricious, and characterized by abuse of discretion” and “unsupported by substantial evidence on the record.”

Ms Bellows did not give Mr Trump “adequate time and opportunity to present a defense,” according to his attorneys.

Disqualifying a presidential candidate from public office, they argue, “presents a political question reserved for the Electoral College and Congress.”

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment “is not self-executing and requires congressional legislation – of which there presently is none – to give it effect, leaving no role for state officials to play in its enforcement,” according to Mr Trump’s attorneys.

Last year, Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico who was convicted for his role in the 6 January attack, was permanently removed from office under a similar Section 3 “insurrection” challenge, marking the first successful attempt to disqualify a public official from holding office in more than 100 years.

Mr Trump’s attorneys also argue that the section would not apply to him anyway, as he has never served as an “officer of the United States,” as per the amendment, and has never taken an “oath to support the Constitution”.

In her filing last week, Ms Bellows said she “did not reach this conclusion lightly”.

Mr Trump was “aware of the likelihood for violence“ and “at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it,” according to Ms Bellows.

“The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimise a democratic election, and then chose to light a match,” she wrote.

Additional reporting by Ariana Baio

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