Cruz, Scalie

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2022.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

After Fleeing on Jan. 6, GOP Lawmakers Urge Supreme Court to Keep Trump on Ballot

The ex-president also filed a brief and claimed that ballot disqualification efforts "promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado's lead."

Two-thirds of congressional Republicans on Thursday signed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the justices to reverse the Colorado Supreme Court's recent decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the state primary ballot.

The country's highest court—which has a right-wing supermajority that includes three Trump appointees and Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife was involved in efforts to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 win—agreed to take the case earlier this month, just before the start of the presidential primary season, which is now underway.

With arguments scheduled for February 8, the deadline for Trump's brief on the merits as well as any amicus curiae—or "friend of the court"—briefs like the one submitted by 179 Republican lawmakers, was Thursday. It was led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), and other supporters include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

The voters behind the Colorado case—like other lawsuits and applications to election officials across the country—successfully argued that Trump's incitement of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, while Congress was certifying Biden's win, disqualifies him from serving as president again, because the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who took an oath to the U.S. Constitution and then engaged in insurrection from holding office.

After having to flee the Trump-supporting rioters three years ago, the Republican lawmakers argued Thursday that "the Colorado Supreme Court's decision encroaches on Congress' express powers," claiming that federal lawmakers "must pass authorizing legislation to enforce Section 3" of the 14th Amendment.

"The Colorado Supreme Court also erred by rejecting the argument that Section 3 is inapplicable to former President Trump, as he was never previously 'an officer of the United States,'" the GOP lawmakers claimed. The brief also contests the court's definitions of "engaged in" and "insurrection," and warns that the decision "will lead to widespread de-balloting of political opponents."

Trump's lawyers also filed his brief on Thursday, writing that "the court should put a swift and decisive end to these ballot disqualification efforts, which threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans and which promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado's lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots."

So far, only Maine has joined Colorado in disqualifying the twice-impeached former president during the primary stage, but that decision is on hold until the high court weighs in.

"Donald Trump sent an armed mob to the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the election, violating the Constitution and undermining the will of the people. He should not be given another opportunity to do so again," said Aly Belknap, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, in a statement Thursday.

"Former President Trump's eligibility for the Colorado ballot has broad-reaching implications for the permissible conduct of future presidents and other public officials," she continued. "In a strong democracy, elections are decided by the voters at the ballot box, not with violence or intimidation. The Supreme Court has the power to set a critical legal precedent to safeguard the future of American democracy: You cannot stoke political violence against your own country and hold elected office."

Belknap asserted that "the Supreme Court must embrace its role as an active defender of our Constitution, or else it may crumble under the immense pressure it will surely face in the years to come. Just as we argued in our brief to the Colorado Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court must not allow politics to supersede constitutional requirements."

Take Back the Court Action Fund's president, Sarah Lipton-Lubet, declared that "if congressional Republicans want Trump on the ballot, they should simply pass a bill exempting him from the 14th Amendment's prohibition on insurrectionists holding office, as the Constitution specifies. But they've grown so accustomed to the Supreme Court doing their dirty work that they're hoping it will again."

In addition to the 14th Amendment arguments, Trump is facing four ongoing criminal cases—two of which stem from his 2020 election interference. Despite all of that, he won the Iowa caucuses on Monday and is the leading Republican candidate in other states. On the Democratic side, Biden is seeking reelection.

This post has been updated with comment from Colorado Common Cause and Take Back the Court Action Fund.

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