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Donald Trump's Supreme Court Case

DESIREE NIKFARDJAM, HOST: The Supreme Court heard arguments today over whether former President Donald Trump can appear on Colorado's primary ballot. The court is fast-tracking its decision - and the whole case is highly unusual. It’s the first time the fourteenth amendment has been presented in court against a presidential candidate - let alone the leading candidate of a major party. Dean Condoleo covers politics for Uptown Radio.

DEAN CONDOLEO, BYLINE: At issue is section three of 14th Amendment. It says an elected official who has pledged an oath to protect the constitution, and engaged in an insurrection can not run for office. This section dates all the way back to the years following the Civil War. It was designed to keep Confederates out of government. In December, a majority of Colorado’s Supreme Court decided Donald Trump violated the 14th Amendment because of his role in the January 6th insurrection and therefore cannot appear on Colorado’s primary ballot. Attorney Jonathan Mitchell represented Trump in the case.

JONATHAN MITCHELL: “The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is wrong and should be reversed for numerous independent reasons. The first reason is that President Trump is not covered by section 3 because the President is not an officer of the United States as that term is used throughout the Constitution.”

CONDOLEO: Jason Murray, representing Colorado, told the justices that Donald Trump’s lawyers are splitting hairs. 

JASON MURRAY: “My friend relies on a claimed difference, between an office under, and an officer of the United States. But this case does not come down to mere prepositions. The two phrases are two sides of the same coin referring to any federal office or anyone who holds one.”

CONDOLEO: A point of contention for the justices is whether a single state can remove a candidate for federal office. Justice Eleanor Kagan pressed Murray on Colorado’s scope. . 

ELEANOR KAGAN: “I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States. I mean, that seems quite extraordinary, doesn't it?”

MURRAY: “No, your honor. Because ultimately, it's this court that's going to decide that question of federal constitutional eligibility and settle the issue for the nation.”

CONDOLEO: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson then questioned Trump’s lawyer Jonathan Mitchell over what qualifies as an insurrection.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: So why would that not be an, what is your argument? That it's not your reply brief says that it wasn't because I think you say it did not involve an organized attempt to overthrow the government.

MITCHELL: That's one of many reasons. But for an insurrection, there needs to be an organized concerted effort to overthrow the government of the United States through violence. And this…

JACKSON: So your point is that a chaotic effort to overthrow the government is not an insurrection?

MITCHELL: We didn't concede that it's an effort to overthrow the government either, Justice Jackson, right. None of these criteria were met. This was a riot, it was not an insurrection. The events were shameful, criminal, violent, all of those things, but it did not qualify as insurrection as that term is used in section three.

CONDOLEO: From here, the Supreme Court has three options. It could decide to disqualify from President Trump across the board, it could decide this a political question for state lawmakers and voters to answer, or it could reject Colorado’s claim and keep Trump on the ballot. The justices haven’t given a timetable for their decision, but some legal experts believe the Justices will fast-track their decision - fast track not being a term usually used with the Supreme Court - so we would know their decision before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 5th. Dean Condoleo, Columbia Radio News

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