Colorado Supreme Court removes Trump from 2024 ballot

By Dan Berman, Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:09 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023
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8:20 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Colorado Supreme Court decision could complicate Trump's road to 2024 presidency, analysts say

From CNN staff

While Colorado's 10 electoral votes were not believed to be part of former President Donald Trump's projected path to reelection, CNN political director David Chalian says the unprecedented decision by the state's Supreme Court to remove Trump from its ballot could impact the 2024 race.

"If you start taking potentially available electoral votes off the board, the map to 270, even though this was not part of his 2020 path, becomes more complicated in that way," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin agreed, saying that the historic move could have ramifications for Trump.

"He's not necessarily playing for the 10 electoral votes in Colorado," she told Blitzer. "But it's the precedent it sets and it's also just the mindset that it signals to voters, which is, for the first time in history, he is unfit to appear on a ballot for the presidency."

Senior legal analyst Elie Honig noted that other states have attempted to take Trump off of the ballot as well, but have largely fallen flat. The former president remains on the ballot in  Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan and elsewhere.

"There have been dozens of these challenges filed across the country, and 18 or so of them have either failed, been rejected, or been withdrawn by the plaintiff. So this is really an outlier."

CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen, the White House ethics czar under former President Barack Obama, said that despite the similar challenges failing across the country, he expects the US Supreme Court to take Tuesday’s ruling “seriously.” 

“When you just look at the plain language of the 14th Amendment. You put that together with what the January 6th committee found – the testimony and the evidence that were taken by the trial court here: The trial court found, with merit, that Donald Trump participated in insurrection. 
"And the 14th Amendment is not going to be so easily dismissed. So I think the Supreme Court will wrestle with it. They'll take it seriously – and it's very tough to predict what they'll do,” Eisen told Blitzer.

This post has been updated with more analysis of the ruling.

7:01 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

3 Colorado justices dissented from ruling removing Trump from 2024 ballot

From CNN's Devan Cole

The three Colorado Supreme Court justices who dissented from the majority ruling removing Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot cited various rationales.  

Justice Carlos Samour said that he agreed with the majority’s finding that the Constitution “bars from public office anyone who, having previously taken an oath as an officer of the United States to support the federal Constitution, engages in insurrection.”  

But he raised due process concerns and took issue with the majority’s decision to use state law “as an engine to provide the necessary thrust to effectuate” the so-called federal insurrectionist ban. 

“My colleagues in the majority concede that there is currently no legislation enacted by Congress to enforce Section Three. This is of no moment to them, however, because they conclude that Section Three is self-executing, and that the states are free to apply their own procedures (including compressed ones in an election code) to enforce it. That is hard for me to swallow,” he wrote, referring to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Chief Justice Brian Boatright wrote in his dissent that he believes Colorado election law “was not enacted to decide whether a candidate engaged in insurrection,” and said he would have dismissed the challenge to Trump’s eligibility. 

“In the absence of an insurrection-related conviction, I would hold that a request to disqualify a candidate under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a proper cause of action under Colorado’s election code,” he wrote. 

Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter wrote in her dissent that she didn’t think Colorado state courts had the authority to decide whether a presidential candidate can be disqualified under the “insurrectionist ban.” 

She said the majority “construes the court’s authority too broadly,” and that the lower court erred when it decided not to grant Trump’s request to toss the case out.  

7:57 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Trump campaign says it will "swiftly file an appeal" to the US Supreme Court following Colorado ruling

From CNN's Alayna Tree

The Trump campaign said it would “swiftly file an appeal” following the Colorado Supreme Court decision.

“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court and a concurrent request for a stay of this deeply undemocratic decision. We have full confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will quickly rule in our favor and finally put an end to these unAmerican lawsuits,” campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

The campaign also blasted out a fundraising email after the ruling, attacking the decision as election interference and asking for donations.

"Crooked Joe and the Democrats know they can’t beat us at the ballot box, so their new plan is to nullify every single 'Trump ballot' in the nation to keep Biden in the White House," the fundraising email reads. "This is how dictatorships are born. ... I will not let left-wing judges STEAL the votes of a MAJORITY of Americans."

"Please make a contribution to join the fight to keep my name on the 2024 ballot and peacefully defend YOUR right to vote,” the email said.

The post was updated with details of the Trump campaign fundraising email.

6:40 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Colorado Supreme Court had "little difficulty" finding that January 6 constituted an insurrection

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

The Colorado Supreme Court had “little difficulty” in determining that the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was an insurrection. 

The court, in its ruling, found there was “substantial evidence” that Trump laid the groundwork to claim the 2020 election was rigged in President Joe Biden’s favor even before the election and worked to pressure Republican officials in various states to overturn the results. 

The court also found that Trump’s messages in the lead-up to the January 6 rally at the Ellipse in Washington, DC, “were a call to his supporters to fight and that his supporters responded to that call.” 

The former president, the court found, also put a “significant target on Vice President (Mike) Pence’s back” when he tweeted on January 6 that Pence needed to send electoral votes back to the states.

On January 6, the court notes, Trump also called for the crowd at the Ellipse to march to the Capitol, and the crowd “unsurprisingly … reacted to President Trump’s words with calls for violence.” 

“President Trump’s direct and express efforts, over several months, exhorting his supporters to march to the Capitol to prevent what he falsely characterized as an alleged fraud on the people of this country were indisputably overt and voluntary,” the court found. 
“Moreover, the evidence amply showed that President Trump undertook all these actions to aid and further a common unlawful purpose that he himself conceived and set in motion: prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election and stop the peaceful transfer of power," it added.
6:26 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Read the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling that removes Trump from 2024 ballot

From CNN staff

The Colorado Supreme Court removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot, ruling that he isn’t an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.” The ruling was 4-3 and will be placed on hold pending appeal until January 4.

Read the ruling:

6:25 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Court issues several key findings in its sweeping decision to remove Trump from Colorado ballot

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled to remove former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot, ruling that he isn’t an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”

“Because he is disqualified, it would be wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado Secretary of State to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot,” the court said.

Here are several of the key findings the court issued in its decision:

  • Colorado state law allows voters to challenge Trump’s eligibility under the federal constitution’s “insurrectionist ban.”
  • Colorado courts can enforce the ban without any action from Congress.
  • The insurrectionist ban applies to the presidency.
  • The January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was an insurrection.
  • Trump “engaged in” the insurrection.
  • Trump’s speech “inciting the crowd” on January 6 was “not protected by the First Amendment.”

Trump denies wrongdoing regarding January 6 and has decried the 14th Amendment lawsuits as an abuse of the legal process. He is under federal and state indictment in connection with his attempts to overturn the 2020 election and he has pleaded not guilty.

6:22 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Colorado Supreme Court removes Trump from 2024 ballot. Ruling on hold pending an appeal

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

In a stunning and unprecedented decision, the Colorado Supreme Court removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 ballot on Tuesday.

The court ruled 4-3 that Trump isn’t an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”  

The ruling will be placed on hold pending appeal until January 4.

The court upheld a trial judge’s decision that Trump engaged in the January 6, 2021, insurrection — and then overturned her conclusion that the ban doesn’t apply to the presidency.    

The state Supreme Court decision only applies to Colorado but is sure to roil the 2024 presidential campaign.

It tees up an appeal to the US Supreme Court, which could settle the matter for the entire nation. 

Colorado election officials have said the matter needs to be settled by January 5, which is the statutory deadline to set the list of candidates for the GOP primary.

Trump denies wrongdoing regarding January 6 and has decried the 14th Amendment lawsuits as an abuse of the legal process. He is under federal and state indictment in connection with his attempts to overturn the 2020 election – and he has pleaded not guilty.

On the campaign trail, Trump has derided the lawsuits and argued that they are an attempt to use the courts to stop him from returning to the White House while he is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. 

More on the 14th Amendment: Ratified after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment says officials who take an oath to support the Constitution are banned from future office if they “engaged in insurrection.” But the wording is vague, it doesn’t explicitly mention the presidency, and has only been applied twice since 1919. 

This post has been updated with more details on the ruling.

6:07 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

A Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments on appeals to the case. Here's what you should know

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Attorney Eric Olson, far right, argues before the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Denver.
Attorney Eric Olson, far right, argues before the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Denver. David Zalubowski/Pool/AP

The Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments on December 6 in a closely watched case about whether the US Constitution’s ban on insurrectionists holding public office applies to former President Donald Trump because of the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot.

The seven-member court appeared divided at times, pushing back on arguments from both Trump and the challengers who want to remove him from Colorado’s presidential ballot in 2024. Their decision is expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, no matter which way they rule.

With support from bipartisan legal scholars, liberal groups filed lawsuits across the country to enforce the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist ban. A suit was filed in Oregon during the Colorado hearing. But so far, these cases have fallen flat, keeping Trump on the ballot in Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan and elsewhere.

The Colorado justices grappled with a key question: Does the ban apply to presidents?

They are reviewing a ruling from Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace, who presided over a bench trial last month, and concluded that Trump “engaged in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021. However, she also ruled that the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause doesn’t apply to Trump because the provision doesn’t mention the presidency.

“If it was so important that the president be included, I come back to the question, why not spell it out?” Justice Carlos Samour asked a lawyer for the challengers. “Why not include president and vice president? … They spelled out senator or representative.”

Two other justices pointed out that other provisions of the Constitution don’t appear to include the president when they refer to federal officers, pushing back on a key pillar of the challengers’ case. The challengers claimed the disqualification clause covers the presidency because it bans insurrectionists from “any office … under the United States.”

But later, when questioning Trump lawyer Scott Gessler, some justices said it wouldn’t make sense for there to be a loophole allowing insurrectionists to become president.

“I saw no rational reason for that type of an exclusion,” Justice Monica Marquez said.

Several of the justices also hammered Gessler over his contention that January 6 was only a riot and wasn’t an insurrection. The 14th Amendment doesn’t define insurrection, and the justices are now reviewing the trial judge’s decision that January 6 fit the bill.

Read more about the ruling here.

6:09 p.m. ET, December 19, 2023

Colorado trial previews what could come in federal election subversion case against Trump

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Reno, Nevada, in December.
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Reno, Nevada, in December. Carlos Barria/Reuters

In some ways, the trial in Colorado that looked at whether the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” disqualifies Donald Trump from serving as president again because of his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection served as a preview of the much higher-profile federal election subversion trial against Trump that is slated for March.

In that criminal case, Trump wasn’t charged with inciting the riot, or with insurrection. But the indictment from special counsel Jack Smith quotes from Trump’s January 6 speech and describes how he fueled the violence. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

This was a major part of the Colorado case, and federal prosecutors might similarly seek to feature testimony from police officers and lawmakers who can describe how Trump’s actions obstructed the certification of the 2020 election results.

Trump’s defense in Colorado relied heavily on January 6 revisionism and featured testimony from an unrepentant US Capitol rioter and others who still maintain the 2020 election was stolen.

In terms of trial strategy, these witnesses could undercut the challengers’ argument that January 6 was an insurrection. The 14th Amendment doesn’t actually define the term.

One of the January 6 rally organizers, Amy Kremer, testified in the Colorado case that the crowd at the Ellipse was full of “patriotic, freedom-loving citizens” who were “joyful, singing and dancing,” including after Trump wrapped his remarks. After her testimony, Kremer posted online a photo of the overrun Capitol and said, “The 2020 Election was stolen!”

Trump’s lawyers say this showed that his words didn’t incite violence, a core element of his defense. Plenty of rallygoers ignored Trump’s call to go to the Capitol. Many who did march there stayed peaceful. But thousands participated in a violent riot, as highlighted earlier in the trial by two of the 140 police officers who were wounded in the melee.

One rioter, Tom Bjorklund, testified for Trump’s defense and admitted on the stand that he breached Capitol grounds, though he said he never entered the building. Bjorklund, now the Colorado GOP treasurer, hasn’t been charged with any crimes and testified that he didn’t engage in violence at the Capitol.

“It’s kind of an insult to insurrectionists around the world,” Bjorklund said. “Because Republicans just mad about an election hardly rises to the level of an insurrection.”