Democrats continue to cite 14th Amendment provision to disqualify Trump from office over Jan. 6 'insurrection'

May 30, 2023
Ben Marquis

There are some Democrats who cannot fathom the idea of former President Donald Trump being re-elected to a second term in office in 2024 and are seeking any possible tool that can be used to block him from even running again for the presidency, much less actually being elected again.

One such tool often cited in regard to Trump is a relatively obscure post-Civil War constitutional amendment that disqualifies from office any individual who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the federal government, and Democrats have shown a renewed interest in that effort, the Conservative Brief reported.

The 14th Amendment's Disqualification Clause

First enacted in 1868 and aimed squarely at former officials of the Confederacy, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states, in part, "No person shall ... hold any office, civil or military, under the United States ... who, having previously taken an oath ... as an officer of the United States ... to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

Known as the Disqualification Clause, the New York Post reported on Jan. 6, 2022 -- exactly one year after the Capitol riot -- that around a dozen Democratic lawmakers in Congress were exploring whether that provision could be applied to former President Trump in relation to his purported incitement of the Jan. 6 "insurrection" at the Capitol in 2021.

Meanwhile, left-wing political activist groups were simply looking for ways to apply the 14th Amendment clause to Trump and any of his supporters who participated in the protest over the disputed 2020 election results that devolved into a violent and destructive riot, namely by convincing election officials and legislatures in the states to take action to bar Trump or others from appearing as a candidate on a ballot.

Democrat-led states seek to bar Trump from appearing on ballots

Fast-forward another year to January 2023, and the Associated Press reported that a number of Democratic-led state legislatures -- including Connecticut, New York, and Virginia -- were considering legislation in that regard.

The Connecticut bill would prohibit anyone "convicted of sedition, rebellion, insurrection or a felony related to one of those acts" from running for or holding any public office in the state, while New York's bill would bar anyone "convicted of engaging in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States" from holding any civil office, and Virginia's bill would similarly "prohibit anyone convicted of a felony related to an attempted insurrection or riot from serving in positions of public trust."

The Democratic lawmakers who support such measures have pointed to the conclusions of the highly partisan congressional committee that investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol riot -- that Trump incited an insurrection -- as supporting evidence in their efforts to block the former president from ever being re-elected as president.

They have also pointed to federal charges of "seditious conspiracy" against some participants in the riot as well as a New Mexico court ruling that cited the 14th Amendment provision -- and was upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court -- in ruling that former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, who was merely present at the protest/riot and did not engage in any violence, was forever disqualified from holding office in the state due to his actions.

Democrats continue to demand states take action to block Trump

More recently, the editor of Colorado Newsline, Quentin Young, published an op-ed that declared former President Trump guilty of inciting and engaging in an insurrection and asserted that there was no "dispute" that Trump was therefore disqualified from holding office by virtue of the 14th Amendment.

Perhaps in recognition that Congress would not take any action to bar Trump from running for or holding office again, Young placed the burden of enforcing the 14th Amendment on the secretaries of state and top election officials of the several states and urged them to take steps to block the former president from appearing as a candidate on their respective ballots.

He further pointed to Colorado's Democratic Sec. of State Jena Griswold as a prominent leader of a state-led effort to do exactly that, though he acknowledged that it was easier said than done and would likely result in lawsuits either way -- whether from the right if Trump was disqualified from the ballot or from the left if he was not disqualified.

A similar cry came in an op-ed for The Nevada Independent, where legislators were considering a measure to prohibit "fake elector schemes" -- of which Trump is accused of conspiring to do to reverse the 2020 election results -- that would seemingly work hand-in-hand with the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from becoming the president again.

"We must use or create every legal tool possible to prevent similar attacks on our elections in the future. Senate Bill 133 addresses gaps in Nevada law to do just that. Constitutional disqualification is a century-old tool," the op-ed concluded. "Donald Trump continues to undermine our democracy by pursuing the presidency despite evidence of his disqualification, while promising to 'terminate the Constitution.' It is incumbent on all of us to educate our neighbors about old and new tools of accountability, and on government leaders to use them."

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