Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), a watchdog group based in Washington, took legal action on Wednesday by filing a lawsuit, representing a group of voters, with the aim of preventing former President Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot in Colorado.
This move is based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and centers on Trump’s alleged involvement in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Wednesday’s lawsuit against Trump was brought forth by six Colorado voters, encompassing both Republicans and unaffiliated voters, with representation from CREW’s legal team. Among the plaintiffs are former state, federal, and local officials.
This lawsuit, promptly dismissed by Trump’s legal team, represents one of the earliest substantial challenges to his eligibility as a presidential candidate, rooted in a 14th Amendment argument.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment stipulates that an individual cannot hold future office if, during a prior term, they pledged to support the Constitution but then ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or [provided] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,’ unless they receive amnesty through a two-thirds vote in Congress.
Proponents of this argument contend that it applies to Trump due to his actions following his defeat in the 2020 election, during which he attempted to overturn the results. Previous efforts to employ this argument against other Republicans have been unsuccessful. However, CREW achieved success last year when they pushed for the removal of a county official in New Mexico who had been convicted of trespassing in connection with the Capitol attack.
The lawsuit accuses Trump of both inciting and assisting the mob that breached the Capitol two years ago. While he was impeached by the House of Representatives on the same charges, he was subsequently acquitted by the Senate and has consistently maintained that he did not incite the rioters.
CREW President Noah Bookbinder explained that the organization initiated this lawsuit because ‘it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future.’
Trump has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has labeled the efforts to disqualify him under the 14th Amendment as ‘election interference.’
In response to the new lawsuit, a Trump campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, strongly criticized it in a statement.
“The people who are pursuing this absurd conspiracy theory and political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition,” Cheung said, in part, adding, “There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it.”
A broader campaign is emerging with the goal of preventing Trump from appearing on the ballot in the upcoming year based on 14th Amendment grounds.
John Anthony Castro, who is vying for the GOP presidential nomination as a write-in candidate, has filed and recorded 14th Amendment cases in multiple states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Castro has also dispatched federal lawsuits to district court clerks in additional states, including Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Last week, Judge Robin Rosenberg swiftly rejected a case that aimed to prevent the Republican frontrunner from appearing on the 2024 Florida ballot.
Judge Rosenberg determined that the plaintiffs did not have the legal standing to pursue the case against Trump. The case alleged that Trump violated the 14th Amendment by allegedly inciting a riot during the January 6, 2021 protests at the Capitol.
Judge Rosenberg refrained from making a judgment on the merits of the argument and instead concluded that Lawrence Caplan, an attorney from Boynton Beach, and two others lacked the necessary “standing” to bring forth the challenge.
“Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge Defendant’s qualifications for seeking the Presidency,” Rosenberg wrote, adding that “the injuries alleged” from the insurrection on Capitol Hill more than two years ago “are not cognizable and not particular to them.” She added “an individual citizen does not have standing to challenge whether another individual is qualified to hold public office.”