Donald Trump’s lawyers brought their battle to the Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday to prevent him from being excluded from state presidential ballots for his actions involving the 2021 Capitol attack, in a case with major implications for the general election in November.
The nine justices, three of whom were appointed by Trump, will hear arguments in his appeal against a lower court’s decision to disqualify the former president from the Republican primary ballot in Colorado based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, after concluding that he participated in an insurrection.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits holding public office for any “officer of the United States” who has taken 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 its enemies.”
Trump is not expected to be present for the arguments. Instead, he plans to start the day at his home in Florida and travel to Nevada, according to a source familiar with his plans. On Thursday night, Nevada will hold a caucus where Trump is expected to win by a wide margin as he moves closer to securing his party’s nomination to challenge President Joe Biden on November 5.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the court on a sunny and cold winter morning. Some held signs saying “Failed Coup,” “Remove Trump,” and “Trump is a traitor.” Police set up barricades around the court to ensure security.
The action calls for the Supreme Court to play a central role in a presidential dispute unlike any since its historic decision in Bush v. Gore, which gave Republican George W. Bush the presidency over Democrat Al Gore in 2000.
The justices may soon face another Trump-related case. The former president faces a deadline on Monday to ask the Supreme Court to intervene after a U.S. appeals court rejected his request for immunity in one of two cases where he faces criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.
The decision by Colorado’s high court on December 19 came amid a broader – and mostly unsuccessful – effort by Trump’s opponents to disqualify him in over two dozen other states for his actions related to the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack. Maine also prevented him from voting, a decision that is on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the Colorado case.
The justices could issue a decision quickly. The Colorado Republican primary is scheduled for March 5. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is the only remaining rival to Trump for the nomination.
The Colorado case raises important questions for the Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority of 6 to 3. Trump’s lawyers have argued that he is not subject to the disqualification language because a president is not an “officer of the United States,” that the provision cannot be applied by the courts in the absence of congressional legislation, and that he did not engage in an insurrection.
In 2021, Trump supporters attacked the police and stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Trump gave an inflammatory speech to them, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight”. Afterwards, he refused for hours to request the crowd to stop.