Donald Trump removed from ballot in Colorado. What does that mean?

The Colorado Supreme Court has removed Donald Trump from the ballot. The verdict is historic, and perhaps so are the consequences. But: What exactly does the verdict mean? And how dangerous can it be for the republican figurehead?

It is a serious defeat that Donald Trump has to take so close to Christmas. The Supreme Court of the US state of Colorado finds it proven that the former president took part in an “insurrection or insurrection” against the Constitution on January 6, 2021. In doing so, Trump violated the 14th Amendment of that Constitution – which in turn disqualified him from running for the White House again.

Trump and his team are foaming with anger. The campaign team spokesman said the decision was “deeply undemocratic” and announced that it would go to the Supreme Court in Washington.

In any case it is historical, the verdict, the circumstances, perhaps also the consequences. But what are they actually? Is Trump really in danger of political extinction? An overview.

The 14th Amendment – ​​vague words with explosive power

The verdict in the federal capital Denver was narrowly against Trump by four votes to three. You were moving into new legal territory. The judges don’t want to have made it easy for themselves with their decision – they are well aware of the implications. The New York Times writes of a “political and legal earthquake,” while the Washington Post calls it an “important date in American political history.”

The basis for the decision is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, or more precisely its third section. In simple terms, it states that no one who, as a sworn public servant, “has taken part in an insurrection or insurrection against them (the United States, editor’s note) or has supported or aided their enemies” may run for official office. By wanting to overturn the election results on January 6, 2021 and calling on his supporters to march on the US Capitol, Trump did exactly that.

The controversial question was not only whether Trump incited an insurrection or was involved in it, but also whether the 14th Amendment even applies to a US president (You can read more about it here). The Colorado Supreme Court now said yes in both cases.

In doing so, however, it partially revised a previous ruling in its own state. A lower court judge also concluded that Trump had incited an insurrection – that he had “acted with the specific intent of inciting political violence.” However, the vaguely worded constitutional amendment does not explicitly mention the US President. As former Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in the Wall Street Journal in September, the text of the law refers to an “official of the United States” – but I mean only “appointed officials, not elected ones.” Opponents suspect quibbles and see such interpretations as an attempt to intentionally misinterpret the logic of the law.

One thing is certain: Opinions differ on the vague words that are more than 150 years old. The pros and cons will be hotly debated in the coming weeks and months. Especially since the decision from Denver could also have a signaling effect. After all, Colorado is not the only state in which Trump opponents sued against the Republican running for office again – but they were nowhere successful. Until now.

Politically, little is likely to change for Trump at first

Even if Trump were ultimately not on the ballot in Colorado, the impact would probably be small – at least the political one. The state has reliably gone to Democrats in the past four presidential elections. Nobody in the Trump team should have expected a victory here in 2024.

The internal party primaries are also comparatively insignificant. They will take place on March 5th, the so-called Super Tuesday, when conservatives will decide on a candidate in a dozen states at the same time. Given the poll numbers, Trump probably doesn’t need Colorado at all.

Separately, the Colorado judges have suspended their ruling until January 4th to give Trump the opportunity to appeal to the Washington Supreme Court. Until then, Trump remains on the ballot and will remain so until the Supreme Court has the final say. It is therefore quite possible that the elections will initially take place as planned.

Supreme Court has the final say

Congress could also repeal the ban – but that would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers. This is unlikely, to say the least. It would also be possible that the Supreme Court indirectly leaves the verdict to the voters through the presidential election, the New York Times speculates. A bold hope.

A review by the US Supreme Court seems “inevitable,” write US legal experts in the “Election Law Blog”. The pressure on the judges is likely to be enormous. Not that the Supreme Court doesn’t already have enough to do with the Trump case. Only recently, special prosecutor Jack Smith asked the court to give a summary judgment on Trump’s immunity claims.

Another reason for Trumpian optimism: In contrast to the consistently Democratic panel in Colorado (where three judges voted in Trump’s favor), the majority of the judges on the Supreme Court are conservative – three of them were appointed by the Republican himself. Their attitude is no guarantee for Trump-friendly decisions, as the past has shown. If, contrary to expectations, the Washington judges refuse to review the ruling of their Colorado colleagues, Trump could actually be excluded from the election.

Republicans are supporting Trump

Within the party, the bad news from Denver initially did not shake Trump’s supremacy. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans were almost unanimously behind the ex-president – even direct competitors. Ultimately, the case is about fundamentals.

“Donald Trump should not be prevented from becoming president by a court. He should be prevented from becoming president of the United States by the voters of this country,” writes presidential candidate Chris Christie, one of his biggest critics.

According to current polls, Trump is miles ahead of “persecutors” like Christie, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. The verdict will only strengthen Trumpists’ admiration for the 77-year-old, giving new impetus to his tale of political witch hunting.

This once again reveals the greatest weakness of the party’s internal competition to date – shooting against Trump would suggest ideological proximity to the hated Democrats. In times of political division, no conservative can or wants to afford that.

Sources: “New York Times“; “Election Law Blog“; “Vox”; “Washington Post“; CNN