Legal Challenges Enter Court Amid Trump Indictment

In what appears to be a constitutional showdown, opponents of former President Donald Trump's potential 2024 presidential candidacy are challenging the eligibility of the former president by using the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Last week, Florida tax attorney Lawrence Caplan filed a federal court case challenging Trump’s eligibility to be on a state ballot in the next presidential election, citing the Amendment’s “disqualification clause.” The clause states that any person who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States cannot hold office ever again.

Although none of the four indictments brought against the former president accuse him of directly inciting the January 6 Capitol attack, Caplan argues that charges related to election interference, hush money, and racketeering all count against Trump. If these attacks on the former president are indeed true, then the Fourteenth Amendment would make him ineligible to seek the office of the President.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, was meant to represent a new birth of freedom to previously disenfranchised citizens. Two legal professors from the conservative Federalist Society, William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, have affirmed the idea that if any government official “planned, supported, assisted, encouraged, endorsed, or aided in a material way those who engaged in the insurrection” in the 2021 Capitol attack, then such persons are constitutionally disqualified from office.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson endorsed this position during a Milwaukee GOP debate last week, asserting he would “not going to support somebody who’s been convicted of a serious felony or who is disqualified under our Constitution.”

On the other side of the argument, Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz claims that the notion of disqualifying a president puts the Constitution in “grave danger”. Jenna Ellis, a Constitutional law attorney and former Trump ally, called the left’s reaction to the January insurrection “baseless” and pointed out that it is similar to how the political party baselessly called election challenges on behalf of a campaign “racketeering” to justify a RICO charge. Fox News host Mark Levin also criticised the Harvard legal scholars responsible for seriously entertaining Trump’s disqualification, calling their Atlantic Monthly essay one of the “truly dumbest pieces ever” written.

The Trump campaign itself has anticipated a wave of legal challenges claiming election interference and tampering geared towards “depriving the American people of choosing Donald Trump — the overwhelming front-runner by far — as their President.”

Civil rights organizations have already started pressuring state officials in Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Georgia to disqualify Trump from appearing on ballots in their states in 2024 through campaigns to convince state legislatures to adopt the 14th Amendment. Bryant “Corky” Messner, former New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate in 2020 and previously endorsed by Trump, has also announced plans to bring the former president’s disqualification forward at the state level.

Only time will tell if the opponents’ efforts to remove Donald Trump from the ballot in 2024 will be successful in taking away his potential presidential candidacy.

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