The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Free Speech For People Statement on Trump v. Anderson Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court today has made a mockery of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court has ruled that–despite inciting and facilitating a violent insurrection that defeated federal law enforcement, conquered the seat of our national government, nearly assassinated the vice president and key congressional leaders, and blocked Congress from certifying his electoral defeat, thus disrupting the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our nation’s history–the disgraced ex-president Donald Trump can run for office again because this critical provision of the Constitution, designed to prevent exactly this situation, cannot be enforced.

Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, “No person shall . . . hold any office, civil or military, under the United States. . . who, having previously taken an oath, . . . as an officer of the United States. . ., to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Every court and state official that has addressed that issue — in Colorado, Maine, and Illinois — concluded that Trump engaged in insurrection and is disqualified from the presidency.

The Supreme Court did not deny that Trump engaged in insurrection; indeed, during a nearly three hour oral argument on February 8, 2024, neither Trump’s lawyer nor any of the Justices seriously disputed that conclusion. Instead, the Court ruled that states’ power to appoint presidential electors–which the Court has previously described as “far-reaching” and “plenary”–does not allow them to apply this critical provision of the Constitution to presidential candidates. As of today, states can exclude a presidential candidate from the ballot because he did not submit the proper paperwork with the proper number of verified signatures, but not because he fomented a bloody insurrection against the U.S. Constitution.

This decision is disgraceful,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, which pioneered the first litigation under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment and co-led the successful Illinois challenge. “The Supreme Court couldn’t exonerate Trump because the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming, so instead the Justices neutered our Constitution’s built-in defense against insurrectionists and said the facts don’t matter.

This dangerous ruling encourages Trump–and those who follow his example–to engage in more insurrections and disregard more broadly the Constitution. As one Senator explained in 1866 when advocating for Section 3, “the man who has once violated his oath will be more liable to violate his fealty to the Government in the future.” The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment learned this lesson in blood, and gave us Section 3 to prevent a repeat. With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court has utterly failed in its duty to uphold this constitutional mandate at this critical moment in history.

Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan non-profit organization founded on the day of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that works to defend our democracy and our Constitution.