Supreme Court unanimously rules to keep Trump on Colorado ballot

By Dan Berman, Aditi Sangal, Antoinette Radford and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 0028 GMT (0828 HKT) March 5, 2024
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4:16 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Key takeaways from the Supreme Court's decision that keeps Trump on the Colorado ballot

From CNN's John Fritze and Devan Cole

Former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday in Palm Beach, Florida.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday in Palm Beach, Florida. Rebecca Blackwell/AP

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that former President Donald Trump could not be removed from the ballot in Colorado or any other state. It was a sweeping and historic ruling that brushed aside a lawsuit claiming that he disqualified himself from office because of his actions on January 6, 2021.

In a repudiation of the notion that Trump’s actions left him ineligible under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban,” a unanimous court ruled that an individual state could not dump the former president from the ballot.

However, the justices did not say if Trump was an insurrectionist and split on technicalities of how the ban could be enforced. A 5-4 majority said no state could dump a federal candidate off any ballot — but four justices asserted that the court should have limited its opinion.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the ruling:

  • Trump will appear on the ballot: There was no equivocation in the Supreme Court’s short opinion: States do not have the power to remove a federal candidate from the ballot under the Constitution’s “insurrectionist ban.” It is Congress, the court wrote, that can enforce the provision, not states. That means that the impact of the decision will sweep far wider than the controversy in Colorado. 
  • Court heads off 2025 showdown: The high court’s opinion also appeared to make it much harder for the insurrectionist ban to be enforced at the federal level. Four justices – Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – asserted that their colleagues went too far. The court’s opinion, the three liberal justices wrote in a concurrence, “shuts the door on other potential means of federal enforcement,” by requiring Congress to act to pass legislation first, something that’s highly unlikely. The move appeared to address a concern that a narrow ruling from the court could lead to a messy confrontation in Congress when the electoral votes are counted in 2025.
  • Avoiding insurrectionist debate: The Supreme Court’s opinion doesn’t directly address whether Trump’s actions on January 6 qualified as an “insurrection," skirting an issue that the courts in Colorado wrestled with. The unsigned opinion noted that lower courts in Colorado found Trump’s remarks before the attack on the US Capitol qualified as engaging in an insurrection within the meaning of the Constitution. But the court’s unsigned opinion didn’t return to that judgment direction.
  • Barrett's concern with "national temperature": Barrett devoted more than half of her one-page concurrence to urging the public to look past the fact that four of the court’s members — herself included — disagreed with how broadly their colleagues decided the case. The conservative justice stressed that although she and the three liberal justices were at odds with their other colleagues, “this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency.”
  • Liberal wing rebukes majority for opinion's sweep: The court’s three liberals – Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson – sharply criticized the majority for the breadth of the opinion. They said that the majority opinion limited federal enforcement of the insurrection ban as well as state enforcement. That decision, they said, wasn’t before the Supreme Court in the case and would “insulate all alleged insurrectionists” from future challenges.

Get up to speed and read the full takeaways from the Supreme Court's ruling.

2:46 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Ballot decisions shouldn't be up to elected officials, Haley says after SCOTUS decision

From CNN's Ebony Davis

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Monday reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling that states can’t bar Donald Trump from running for office based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist ban, saying in part, “We don't ever want some elected official in the state, or anybody else saying who can and can’t be on the ballot.”

“Look I’ll defeat Donald Trump fair and square, but I want him on that ballot,” she added, during a campaign stop in Houston, Texas. She continues in the race for the GOP nomination, despite trailing the former president by a wide margin. 

The former South Carolina governor continued to criticize Trump’s leadership, placing blame on him for the shift in the structure of the Republican party and arguing that Trump is trying to make the Republican National Committee his own personal “legal slush fund,” after his recent leadership endorsements to replace current chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

2:40 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

The Supreme Court handed down an unsigned opinion in the Trump ballot case. Here's what that means

From CNN's John Fritze

The Supreme Court’s decision to bar states from knocking Donald Trump off the ballot generated considerable confusion about where each of the justices stood on the fraught question of the former president’s eligibility for a second term.

To begin with, the court handed down what’s known as a “per curiam” opinion, a Latin term that translates to “by the court.” Such opinions are relatively rare and are sometimes used to signal consensus — even though such opinions are not always unanimous.

Per curium opinions are “unsigned,” which means that unlike most opinions, the public doesn’t know who wrote them and can’t always glean the vote count. 

Per curiam opinions have faced criticism from some quarters for that very reason: They allow the court to resolve controversial issues without explicitly making clear their authorship. Among the most notable per curiam opinions in the court’s history was the Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively settled the election 2000 election for President George W. Bush.

Adding further confusion to Monday’s decision were the “concurring” opinions that at times looked likely sharply worded dissents. The court unanimously sided with Trump and against Colorado for the prospect that an individual state can’t knock a presidential candidate off the ballot under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.” Despite the unity, there was considerable disagreement about some of the court’s reasoning.

What that meant is that while Trump won unanimously, the court split apart on some of the reasoning in a way that looked much closer to a 5-4 vote.  

2:46 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Michigan secretary of state: Supreme Court's Trump ballot ruling "gives needed clarity"

From CNN's Omar Jimenez

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attends a panel about elections during the summer meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in July 2023 in Washington, DC.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attends a panel about elections during the summer meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in July 2023 in Washington, DC. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said today’s ruling from the Supreme Court “gives needed clarity to state officials and courts still wrestling with the question of how to apply Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to Donald Trump’s eligibility as a candidate.”

She continued in a statement: “I hope it also gives voters greater clarity of their power to define the future of our nation and our democracy. Because as Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson remind us in their concurrence, 'The American people have the power to vote for and elect candidates for national office, and that is a great and glorious thing.'"

Last year, Michigan’s Supreme Court rejected an attempt to remove former president Trump from the 2024 primary ballot based on the insurrectionist clause of the US Constitution.

Remember: The 14th Amendment says Americans who take an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “engaged in insurrection” are disqualified from holding future public office.

The amendment’s key provision, Section 3, says in part: “No person shall … hold any office … under the United States … who, having previously taken an oath … 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.”

However, the Constitution does not spell out how to enforce the ban. And there is an open legal debate over how some of the terms in the vague provision should be defined.

CNN's Marshall Cohen contributed reporting to this post.

1:54 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Maine confirms Trump's ballot eligibility after SCOTUS ruling

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Maine’s top election official formally restored Donald Trump’s spot on the state’s 2024 ballot after the Supreme Court ruled that states can’t bar him from office based on the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, ruled in December that Trump was disqualified from the state's ballots, but her decision was paused while the US Supreme Court reviewed a similar case from Colorado. 

Noting Monday's ruling, Bellows wrote: “Consistent with my oath and obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and pursuant to the Anderson decision, I hereby withdraw my determination that Mr. Trump's primary petition is invalid.” 

Maine's primary is Tuesday. 

12:56 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Trump praises SCOTUS ruling to keep him on Colorado ballot, calling it "very well-crafted"

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago on March 4 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago on March 4 in Palm Beach, Florida. Pool

Former President Donald Trump is speaking from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, after the Supreme Court’s ruling to keep him on the Colorado ballot.

He lauded the SCOTUS decision as an "important decision" that was "very well-crafted."

"I think it will go a long way toward bringing our country together, which our country needs," he said Monday, while noting that he believes the decision "will be a unifying factor."

"They worked long, they worked hard and frankly, they worked very quickly on something that will be spoken about 100 years from now and 200 years from now, extremely important. Essentially, you cannot take somebody out of a race because an opponent would like to have it that way," he added.

His campaign is already fundraising off of the decision. Less than an hour after the court handed down its ruling, the Trump campaign blasted out a fundraising text to supporters alerting them of the decision and donate to his cause.

The decision, which marked the first time the high court had weighed Trump’s actions on January 6, landed a day before Super Tuesday, when 16 states and territories, including Colorado, will hold nominating contests.

CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed reporting to this post.

12:51 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Possible front-runners for Senate GOP leader applaud Supreme Court decision

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

Sen. John Cornyn walks to a vote in the Senate Chambers s at the US Capitol on February 7, in Washington, DC. 
Sen. John Cornyn walks to a vote in the Senate Chambers s at the US Capitol on February 7, in Washington, DC.  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Several likely front-runners to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as Republican leader applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to allow former President Donald Trump on the ballot ahead of Colorado’s primary.

“This decision by SCOTUS puts an end to Democrats’ efforts to suppress the will of the people, and that’s a win for democracy,” GOP Sen. John Cornyn said in a post on X. “Voters all across our country will decide the outcome of this year’s elections, not far-left judges in a small number of liberal states.”

Cornyn spoke to the former president on Wednesday, one day before he announced his bid for the top job, about his intention to run for leader.

Senate Republican Conference chair John Barrasso also posted on social media about his support for the Court’s decision.

"Today’s decision means that liberal activists will not silence American voters this November,” he wrote. “Millions of voters will rightly decide our next president at the ballot box.”

Another possible candidate for leader, the Senate Republican’s campaign Chair Steve Daines, chimed in as well, calling it, “The right decision.” 

12:32 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Group that brought Trump ballot challenge in Colorado argues they lost on legal technicalities

From CNN's Laura Smitherman

Top officials from the liberal watchdog group that brought the Donald Trump ballot challenge in Colorado said they disagreed with the Supreme Court decision overturning their victory in that state, but argued they lost on legal technicalities and that the high court didn’t dispute the former president's role inciting the January 6 insurrection. 

“There is not a single sentence from a single justice taking substantive issue with the finding from the Colorado Supreme Court that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection,” Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said during a call with reporters. 

Jason Murray, who argued on behalf of the challengers before the US Supreme Court, said the high court “had the opportunity to say that there was some defect in the evidence we presented, and it did not do so.” He was referring to the weeklong trial in Colorado that saw testimony from police officers, experts on right-wing extremism, and lawmakers about Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

“The issue of Trump’s eligibility for the presidency remains very much a live issue,” but the ball is now in Congress’ court, Murray added. 

A five-member conservative majority concluded that Congress would need to pass an enforcement mechanism before states could take action to bar Trump from the ballot. 

12:38 p.m. ET, March 4, 2024

Lead plaintiff in Colorado lawsuit: SCOTUS ruling doesn’t change fact that "Trump engaged in insurrection"

From CNN's Kit Maher

Colorado lead plaintiff Norma Anderson leaves after speaking to the media after the court hearing outside of the US Supreme Court on February 8 in Washington, DC.
Colorado lead plaintiff Norma Anderson leaves after speaking to the media after the court hearing outside of the US Supreme Court on February 8 in Washington, DC. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Norma Anderson, the 91-year-old lead plaintiff in the lawsuit aiming to remove Donald Trump from the Colorado ballot, urged fellow Republicans to "recognize the threat" the former president poses to democracy, given the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in his favor Monday. 

"Today's decision does not change this fact: Donald Trump engaged in insurrection against the United States Constitution,” Anderson, who is a former Colorado House and Senate Majority leader, said in a statement to CNN.

“I served in public office for decades as a Republican, never putting my party or personal interests ahead of my duties to Colorado or our country," she said in the statement.

"In light of today’s ruling, I urge my fellow Republicans to recognize the threat Donald Trump poses to democracy and do the same. My fellow plaintiffs and I are proud to have brought this case, and look forward to continuing the work of protecting our democracy."