Trump: First Amendment Protects Him 09/26 06:17
DENVER (AP) -- Attorneys for former President Donald Trump argue that an
attempt to bar him from the 2024 ballot under a rarely used "insurrection"
clause of the Constitution should be dismissed as a violation of his freedom of
The lawyers made the argument in a filing posted Monday by a Colorado court
in one of the most significant of a series of challenges to Trump's candidacy
under the Civil War-era clause in the 14th Amendment. The challenges rest on
Trump's attempts to overturn his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden and his role
leading up to the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"At no time do Petitioners argue that President Trump did anything other
than engage in either speaking or refusing to speak for their argument that he
engaged in the purported insurrection," wrote attorney Geoffrey Blue.
Trump also will argue that the clause doesn't apply to him because "the
Fourteenth Amendment applies to one who 'engaged in insurrection or rebellion,'
not one who only 'instigated' any action," Blue wrote.
The former president's lawyers also said the challenge should be dismissed
because he is not yet a candidate under the meaning of Colorado election law,
which they contend isn't intended to settle constitutional disputes.
The motion under Colorado's anti-SLAPP law, which shields people from
lawsuits that harass them for behavior protected by the First Amendment, will
be the first of the 14th Amendment challenges filed in multiple states to be
considered in open court. It was filed late Friday and posted by the court
Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace has scheduled a hearing on the motion
for Oct. 13. A hearing on the constitutional issues will come on Oct. 30.
Whatever Wallace rules, the issue is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court,
which has never heard a case on the provision of the 14th Amendment, which was
ratified in 1868, three years after the Civil War ended. The clause has only
been used a handful of times.
The Colorado challenge stands out because it was the first filed by an
organization with significant legal resources, in this case a liberal group
called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A second liberal
group, Free Speech For The People, has also filed a challenge to Trump's
candidacy in Minnesota that is scheduled to be heard by that state's high court
on Nov. 2.
Section Three of the amendment bars from office anyone who once took an oath
to uphold the Constitution but then "engaged" in "insurrection or rebellion"
against it. Its initial intent was to prevent former Confederate officials from
becoming members of Congress and taking over the government.
Trump's contention that he is protected by freedom of speech mirrors his
defense in criminal cases charging him for his role in the Jan. 6 attack.
There, too, he argues he was simply trying to bring attention to what he
believed was an improper election -- even though dozens of lawsuits challenging
the results had already been rejected.
Prosecutors in those cases and some legal experts have noted that Trump's
offenses go beyond speech, to acts such as trying to organize slates of fake
electors that Congress could have recognized to make him president again.
The criminal cases have already bled into the 14th Amendment challenge in
Colorado. On Friday, Wallace issued an order barring threats and intimidation
in the case after the plaintiffs noted that Trump has targeted lawyers and
witnesses in the criminal proceedings against him.