(LifeSiteNews) – Calls are underway to remove former President Donald Trump from next year’s general election ballots over the multitude of criminal indictments against him, raising grave concerns over his viability should he be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024.
Trump, the current frontrunner in the GOP field, faces dozens of counts in four separate cases stemming from his urging of the Georgia government to find evidence of vote fraud in the 2020 presidential election, his challenge of Congressional certification of the election results, his alleged retention and sharing of classified documents after leaving office, and his 2016 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels allegedly to keep quiet about a past affair.
Now comes word that Palm Beach lawyer Lawrence Caplan has filed a federal suit in the Southern District of Florida calling for Trump to be disqualified from the race for engaging in “insurrection” against the government, and that New Hampshire Republican Secretary of State David Scanlan is seeking legal guidance as to whether he is legally entitled or obligated to remove Trump from the ballot on the same grounds.
At issue is the Disqualification Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that “[n]o person” may “hold any office” who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Ever since the march on the U.S. Capitol tht Trump called for on January 6, 2021, to protest certification of the election results ended in rioting, the former president’s enemies have claimed it was an attempted “insurrection” for which Trump should be disqualified from future office, although federal investigators never found evidence that the riot was organized or intended by Trump.
“The bottom line here is that President Trump both engaged in an insurrection and also gave aid and comfort to other individuals who were engaging in such actions, within the clear meaning of those terms as defined in Section Three of the 14th Amendment,” Caplan’s filing reads.
“It’s crystal clear that that one case is exactly the kind of charges that are referenced in this 14th Amendment Section 3,” he told USA Today. “It’s one of those things that if you’re an honest broker, if you’re an honest judge, and you read the amendment and you look at the facts of the case, you walk away and say, ‘He’s barred.'”
“Not being a lawyer and not wanting to make a decision in a vacuum, I will be soliciting some legal opinions on what is appropriate or not before I make any decision,” Scanlan said of the matter. “I have some in-house staff attorneys that are election experts. I will be asking the attorney general’s office for their input. And ultimately whatever is decided is probably going to require some judicial input.”
“I view the violence as being a really unfortunate event in our history,” he added. “I don’t know that I’m really qualified to say whether that was an ‘insurrection’ or not. I think that is for the courts to decide.”
Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman rejects the argument that Trump should be barred from office on the grounds that while the U.S. Supreme Court has never expressly ruled on local officials acting on the Disqualification Clause, “in 1869, the chief justice of the United States, Salmon P. Chase, issued a circuit court opinion” in which he “”held that Section 3 was not automatically enforceable — what lawyers call ‘self-enforcing’ — but rather could only go into effect if Congress passed a law directing its implementation. Such legislation is not today in existence.”
While that opinion is not formally binding, Feldman says, it remains “overwhelmingly the most important precedent interpreting Section 3. It has not been seriously questioned by the Supreme Court or the other courts of appeal since it was set down more than 150 years ago. Because it is still on the books, ignoring it would be an act of legal irresponsibility.”
Apart from the legal merits (or lack thereof) of both the indictments against Trump and any move to remove him from ballots, the push is likely to be attempted in multiple states next year and highlights grave questions about his chances of taking back the White House from President Joe Biden.
Trump currently commands a 40.8-point lead in the national polling average for the GOP nomination. A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday found 62% of Republicans perceive Trump as the most electable option for beating Biden. Yet Biden narrowly leads Trump in a majority of national head-to-head matchups, enjoys a higher favorability average, and is disliked substantially less among swing voters – before trials begin to further impact public opinion and potentially give his general-election foes a pretext to exclude him from voters’ options.
Trump’s Save America PAC has spent more money on legal fees in 2023 than it the campaign raised in the second quarter, prompting Trump himself to admit ongoing legal defense costs leave him with “less to spend on ads showing that Crooked Joe is the WORST PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY,” and that his crowded courtroom schedule forces him to spend time “away from the campaign trail.”
In April, a CNN/SSRS poll found that 76% of respondents recognized the least significant of the cases, the Stormy Daniels payment, was politically motivated to one degree or another, but 60% supported it anyway, including 62% of independents. A Navigator Research poll released Friday found that 62% of registered voters think Trump committed a crime, including 67% of independents. It also found that strong majorities of overall and independent voters see all four indictments as serious.
Primary voting begins next January with the Iowa caucuses.