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The Colorado Supreme Court disqualifies former President Trump from primary ballot

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Colorado Supreme Court issued an historic ruling yesterday. It said Donald Trump is not eligible to become president again because he engaged in insurrection.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Now, the decision bars him from the state's primary ballot. Now, right away, Trump's campaign said it would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

MARTIN: For more on this, I'm joined by Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland. Bente, good morning.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So the ruling of this case stems from Trump's role in the January 6 events. What did the court decide exactly?

BIRKELAND: This is a case that challenges Trump's eligibility based on a provision of the U.S. Constitution - Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. And it essentially disqualifies anyone from office who's engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the government. The decision here in Colorado was close. It was 4 to 3. But the majority said, yes, Trump's actions leading up to and during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meet that threshold of engaging in an insurrection and thereby disqualify him from running for president.

Colorado's Supreme Court justices made it clear in the decision that they understood the stakes. They said they're in uncharted territory and they didn't reach these conclusions lightly. But they said it's their solemn duty to apply the law without fear or favor and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions.

MARTIN: And what has the Trump campaign said in response?

BIRKELAND: A spokesman called it completely flawed and said they'll immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they expect it will be overturned. Trump's campaign has long said that the lawsuit is undemocratic and that his speech was protected under the First Amendment. And we should mention that there is a Republican supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court who may be a lot more receptive to the arguments Trump's trying to make.

MARTIN: Sure. Of course - and three of whom he appointed. But can you say a little bit more about the clause in the Constitution - Section 3 - that came into play here?

BIRKELAND: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it was really designed to bar former Confederate leaders from holding office. It's barely been used since then, but January 6 gave it a new application. In Colorado, six unaffiliated and Republican voters filed the lawsuit, backed by a liberal group. And there have been a number of attempts by liberal organizations to use Section 3 to disqualifying Trump in states like Michigan, Minnesota. But those cases were dismissed. The courts said the states didn't have the authority to make the decision or that it required congressional action. In Colorado, this is the first time the clause has been successfully invoked against a presidential candidate to be barred from the ballot.

MARTIN: So this is heading to the Supreme Court.

BIRKELAND: Yeah. All along, election officials and legal experts have been saying that this is a question that may need to be resolved by the Supreme Court. One important note here - the Colorado justices stayed their decision until early January, and that's when Colorado's ballots are set to be finalized. So Trump's name would appear on the ballot if the Supreme Court appeal is still pending.

I think it's fair to say that, politically, we can expect to hear a lot more about this. It fits into Trump's narrative that his political enemies are out to get him. And already last night, his campaign was fundraising off the ruling.

MARTIN: That is Bente Birkeland with Colorado Public Radio. Bente, thank you.

BIRKELAND: Thanks so much.

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Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.