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HomeExplainedWhat is Donald Trump’s big legal setback, and could it prevent him...

What is Donald Trump’s big legal setback, and could it prevent him from running for President?

The Supreme Court in the US state of Colorado has found Donald Trump guilty of insurrection and ruled that he is, therefore, disqualified from holding office again. This case and ruling are different from the four other cases against Trump that are currently ongoing in other courts. The outcome of those other cases could also boil down to whether the former President can contest again, and enter the White House for the second time.

What was the Colorado case and what have the judges ruled?

On Tuesday (December 19), the Supreme Court in Colorado ruled by a 4-3 majority that Trump is “disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution”. The court added that “because he (Trump) is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado Secretary of State to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot”.

In the US, the top court in every state is referred to as the Supreme Court of that state. Both Republicans and Democrats will hold their primaries in Colorado and 12 other states on March 5, the biggest day of primaries in the US presidential election calendar, which is known as Super Tuesday. The court has ruled that Trump cannot contest the Republican primary in Colorado.

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However, the justices have also put a hold on their judgment until January 4. This is to allow Trump to appeal their decision before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). If Trump appeals before that, the Colorado ruling will remain frozen until the SCOTUS reaches a decision.

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So does this mean that Trump could still go on to contest in 2024?

Yes. The Trump campaign has already said that it will appeal, and that could happen very quickly now. The US Supreme Court has a 6-3 Conservative majority, and three of the six Conservative justices were appointed by Trump himself.

Theoretically, it is up to the US Supreme Court to decide whether to take up the matter. However, it seems unlikely that they will decline to shoulder the responsibility.

While the Colorado ruling applies only to that state, similar matters are pending elsewhere — and legal scholars in the US have said that the highest court of the land will have to decide for all 50 states whether the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol amounted to an insurrection, and whether Trump is consequently barred from contesting again.

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“It’s hard for me to see how they (SCOTUS) don’t take this one, because this certainly seems to be one of those questions that requires some national resolution,” a report in The New York Times quoted law professor Anthony Michael Kreis as saying.

A report in The Washington Post quoted law professor Derek Muller: “It feels like the kind of case the Supreme Court has to weigh in on.”

What then is the significance of the Colorado ruling on Trump?

The NYT report described the ruling as a “political and legal earthquake”.

Prof Muller, whom The NYT also quoted, told the newspaper: “This is a major and extraordinary holding from a state Supreme Court. Never in history has a presidential candidate been excluded from the ballot under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. United States Supreme Court review seems inevitable, and it exerts major pressure on the court.”

The Post report noted that “If other states reach the same conclusion, Trump would have a difficult — if not impossible — time securing the Republican nomination and winning in November.”

Trump is in court in four other cases: (i) the federal election interference case in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, in which federal prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith have charged Trump with criminally attempting to derail the transfer of power; (ii) the Georgia election interference case, in which Trump and his allies are accused of spreading lies about voter fraud, and asking Georgia officials and lawmakers to reverse Joe Biden’s victory; (iii) the classified documents case, in which special counsel Jack Smith has accused Trump of taking away from the White House classified national security documents after leaving the Presidency; (iv) the hush money case, in which Trump is accused of falsifying records to mask a payoff to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

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