DENVER (AP) — A liberal group on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to bar former President Donald Trump from the primary ballot in Colorado, arguing he is ineligible to run for the White House again under a rarely used clause in the U.S. Constitution aimed at candidates who have supported an “insurrection.”
The lawsuit, citing the 14th Amendment, is likely the initial step in a legal challenge that seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. It was filed on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters by the group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington.
It will jolt an already unsettled 2024 primary campaign that features the leading Republican candidate facing four separate criminal cases.
Liberal groups have demanded that states’ top election officials bar Trump under the clause that prohibits those who “engaged in an insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution from holding higher office. None has taken that step, looking for guidance from the courts on how the interpret a clause that has only been used a handful of times since the 1860s.
While a few fringe figures have filed thinly written lawsuits in a few states citing the clause, the litigation Wednesday was the first by an organization with significant legal resources. It may lead to similar challenges in other states, holding out the potential for conflicting rulings that would require the Supreme Court to settle.
Colorado’s secretary of state, Democrat Jena Griswold, said in a statement that she hoped “this case will provide guidance to election officials on Trump’s eligibility as a candidate for office.”
The lawsuit contends the case is clear, given the attempt by then-President Trump to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden and his support for the assault of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump has said he did nothing wrong in his actions.
“By instigating this unprecedented assault on the American constitutional order, Trump violated his oath and disqualified himself under the Fourteenth Amendment from holding public office, including the Office of the President,” the lawsuit says.
The constitutional provision has been used only a couple of times since the 19th century. The clause cites “presidential electors” but not presidents themselves as being disqualified if they previously swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and then broke it.
Some contend that Congress, which rescinded the clause for former members of the Confederacy in the 1870s, would have to reactivate the provision.
A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.