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Trump won’t sign Illinois pledge vowing not to overthrow government

Republican did sign the same plea when registering to run in the 2016 and 2020 elections

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 08 January 2024 12:18 GMT
Biden slams Trump as 'willing to sacrifice democracy' in Jan 6 anniversary speech

Donald Trump refused to sign a loyalty oath pledging not to call for the US government to be overthrown when he registered to appear on the Illinois 2024 primary ballot, WBEZ/The Chicago Sun-Times have reported.

The declaration is not mandatory but has been signed by presidential candidates for decades as part of the necessary paperwork submitted to the Illinois State Board of Elections in order to secure ballot access.

The agreement dates back to the anti-communist scare of the 1950s and has already been signed, without objection, by President Joe Biden and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

It compels the signatories to promise they will “not directly or indirectly teach or advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state or any unlawful change in the form of the governments thereof by force or any unlawful means”.

Mr Trump did sign the same plea when registering to run in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

His campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said of the decision to abstain this time around: “President Trump will once again take the oath of office on 20 January 2025 and will swear ‘to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’.”

Michael Tyler, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, also responded to Mr Trump’s refusal to take the pledge on Saturday – the same day as the third anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot, when Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the building in the hopes of blocking the certification of the 2020 election results based on his bogus fraud narrative .

“For the entirety of our nation’s history, presidents have put their hand on the Bible and sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States – and Donald Trump can’t bring himself to sign a piece of paper saying he won’t attempt a coup to overthrow our government,” he said.

“We know he’s deadly serious, because three years ago today he tried and failed to do exactly that.

“This is the same man who thinks American troops who died protecting the ideals outlined in the Constitution are suckers and losers – yet calls the convicted felons who violently assaulted and killed police officers on January 6th ‘hostages’.

“He can’t fathom putting anything – our country, our principles, or the wellbeing and safety of the American people – above his own quest for retribution and power.”

Mr Trump’s decision to sidestep the pledge comes at a time when he is contesting decisions by the states of Colorado and Maine to cross him off their ballot papers in accordance with Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which rules him ineligible to run for office again on the grounds that he broke his oath as president by “engaging in insurrection” on 6 January 2021 when he urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the vote.

Among those reacting to the candidate’s abstention from the Illinois pledge was the state’s former congressman Adam Kinzinger, an avowedly anti-Trump Republican who served on the House select committee that investigated the Capitol riot in 2022 – conducting explosive public hearings and producing a damning 814-page report about the former president’s conduct.

Adam Kinzinger (AP)

“Why wouldn’t he sign it?” Mr Kinzinger asked.

“Has he been advised maybe not to sign it because maybe there’s some legal exposures… given that oath, if he signed it, would be a violation of everything he actually did on 6 January 2021 and leading up to it?”

He added: “What was the world like when he signed it in 2016 and when he signed it in 2020? Well, at that point, there had not been an attempted insurrection on the federal government. The difference between the last two times he did it, and this time when he didn’t, is he has a track record of trying to overthrow the government.”

Also reacting to the news was Los Angeles Times contributor Kurt Bardella, who told MSNBC host Alex Witt that the development was “completely on brand” for Mr Trump.

Over the weekend, Mr Biden delivered an excoriating speech in which he called his likely election rival a threat to democracy and denounced his behaviour on January 6 as “one of the worst derelictions of duty in American history”.

Meanwhile, New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik echoed Mr Trump by referring to imprisoned rioters as “hostages” on NBC’s Meet the Press in an apparent audition to be his running mate.

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