Rule of Law

RELEASE: Justices Grapple With Serious Questions, and Fourteenth Amendment’s Text and History Provide Answers

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Colorado Supreme Court this afternoon in Anderson v. Griswold, a case in which the Court is considering whether Donald Trump should be allowed to appear as a candidate on the Colorado ballot given his disqualification from office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment, Constitutional Accountability Center Vice President Praveen Fernandes issued the following reaction:

The Justices of the Colorado Supreme Court grappled with numerous issues this afternoon, including whether the Disqualification Clause applies to the president and the presidency.  Fortunately, the text and enactment history of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment provide clear answers to that question, as we explained in the amicus brief we submitted to the Court.

Under the original public meaning of Section Three’s text, the presidency is an “office . . . under the United States” and the president is an “officer of the United States.” Indeed, sources contemporaneous to the Amendment’s drafting and ratification—including dictionary definitions and public discourse in newspapers at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption—demonstrate that members of the public, including both supporters and opponents of the Disqualification Clause, understood the Clause to apply presidents, including potential future candidates like Jefferson Davis.

Any other reading would not only be at odds with the text of the Clause, but also would defy the Framers’ plan for the Disqualification Clause. The Framers felt that officers who violated their oaths of office in such a serious way could not and should not be trusted to hold office again. If the Framers worried about insurrectionist postmasters, it makes no sense to think they wouldn’t be worried about insurrectionist presidents.

Trump’s legal team tried to make much of the fact that the president takes a different oath than other officers, but the Framers were concerned with those who violated an oath of office, not with the particular oath they took. The president not only takes an oath to support the Constitution, but arguably takes an oath that expresses the strongest degree of support for the Constitution—an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Given the trial court’s finding that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection, these actions disqualify him from holding office.



Case page in Anderson v. Griswold:


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