Colorado court disqualifies Trump from holding office

Former president Donald Trump cannot appear on the ballot in Colorado in the presidential election due to his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters, the state's top court has ruled in a historic judgment that is likely to find its way to the US Supreme Court.

The 4-3 ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday makes Trump the first presidential candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible under a rarely used provision of the US Constitution that bars officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.

The court concluded the constitution barred the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024 because of his role instigating violence against the US government.

"We do not reach these conclusions lightly," the majority justices wrote.

"We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us.

Violent protesters, loyal to Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in 2021
A group argued that Trump should be disqualified for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol.

"We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favour, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach."

The court said the ruling was stayed until January 4, 2024, to allow for appeals.

Trump's campaign called the decision "flawed" and "undemocratic", and said it would be appealed.

"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," a Trump campaign representative said.

One of the dissenting justices, Carlos Samour, wrote that a lawsuit was not a fair mechanism for determining Trump’s eligibility for the ballot because it deprived him of his right to due process, noting that a jury has not convicted him of insurrection.

The ruling applies only to the state's March 5 Republican primary, but its conclusion would likely also affect Trump’s status for the November 5 general election.

Non-partisan US election forecasters view Colorado as safely Democratic, meaning President Joe Biden will likely carry the state regardless of Trump's fate.

The case was brought by a group of Colorado voters, aided by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who argued Trump should be disqualified for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol in a failed attempt to obstruct the transfer of presidential power to Biden after the 2020 election.

CREW president Noah Bookbinder said in a statement that the court’s decision was "not only historic and justified, but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country".

Trump's campaign has condemned 14th Amendment challenges as an attempt to deny millions of voters their preferred choice for president.

The decision is a victory for advocacy groups and anti-Trump voters who have mounted several similar legal challenges to Trump’s candidacy under section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was enacted after the Civil War.

Courts have rejected several lawsuits seeking to keep Trump off the primary ballot in other states.

The decision reverses a ruling by a lower court judge who found Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting his supporters to violence in Washington but, as president, Trump was not an “officer of the United States” who could be disqualified under the amendment.

A lawyer for Trump argued the Capitol riot was not serious enough to qualify as an insurrection, Trump’s remarks to his supporters were protected by his right to free speech, and courts did not have the authority to remove him from the ballot.

Advocates have hoped to use the case to boost a wider disqualification effort and potentially put the issue before the US Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees.

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