Donald Trump urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to ensure his name can appear on election ballots nationwide, warning of “chaos and bedlam” if the justices do not reverse Colorado’s top court, which disqualified the former president because of his actions on and leading up to Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump’s attorney asked the justices to put a “swift and decisive end” to efforts in more than 30 states to remove him from primary and general election ballots based on a section of the 14th Amendment that bars those who have engaged in insurrection from holding office.
The efforts to disqualify the leading Republican primary contender in the 2024 election, his lawyer Jonathan Mitchell wrote, “threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans” and “promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead.”
The language echoed remarks Trump made last week after an appeals court hearing in a separate case, in which Trump’s lawyers said he should be immune from prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Trump warned that if the criminal charges against him succeed in damaging his candidacy, “It’ll be bedlam in the country. It’s a very bad thing. It’s a very bad precedent. As we said, it’s the opening of a Pandora’s box.”
The question of whether Trump can be shielded from prosecution is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court as well.
The brief filed Thursday was a precursor to oral arguments on the Colorado ballot case that the high court has scheduled for Feb. 8 — an expedited timetable that ensures the justices will play a major role in shaping this year’s presidential election.
Colorado’s ruling was the first time a court found that a presidential candidate could be kept off the ballot because of Section 3 of the post-Civil War 14th Amendment. The provision prevents insurrectionists who previously took an oath of office from returning to power.
A Maine judge this week declined to immediately decide whether Trump’s name can appear on that state’s primary ballot, saying she would wait for the Supreme Court to address the issue in the Colorado case.
Whatever the justices decide is expected to resolve the issue nationwide as primary voting gets underway after this week’s Iowa caucuses, in which Trump scored a decisive win. The first state primary will be on Tuesday in New Hampshire.
Trump’s opening brief reiterates the former president’s assertions that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was not an insurrection. He says Section 3 does not apply to the office of the president and state courts cannot enforce the constitutional provision. Lastly, he says Colorado’s rules do not allow a state court to order the top election official to remove a candidate from the presidential primary ballot.
“And even if President Trump were subject to section 3 he did not ‘engage in’ anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection.’ The Court should reverse on these grounds and end these unconstitutional disqualification efforts once and for all,” his lawyer told the justices.
In the lead up to the highly-anticipated argument over Trump’s ballot eligibility, dozens of advocacy groups, academics, politicians and former government officials have begun filing briefs in support of either the former president or the six Colorado voters challenging Trump’s eligibility.
Attorneys for those voters have said that the Constitution’s language barring insurrectionists from office is clear, that it applies to presidents and that it does not require an act of Congress to be enforced.
In asking the justices to quickly review the matter, they said the high court should uphold the finding from Colorado that the former president intentionally incited his supporters to violence on Jan. 6 to disrupt the certification of the election — and exacerbated the attack while it was ongoing.
An amicus brief in support of keeping Trump on the ballot that was submitted Thursday included the signatures of nearly 180 congressional Republicans. Among them was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has largely steered clear of the 2024 Republican president race and who previously said Trump was responsible for provoking the 2021 insurrection.