Six Coloradans, including four Republicans, aided by a national leftwing activist group recently filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court, seeking to compel Secretary of State Jena Griswold to disqualify Donald Trump from Colorado’s presidential primary ballot.
The lawsuit is a meritless legal ploy that rivals John Eastman’s hare-brained scheme to hijack the Electoral College for Trump’s benefit. It should be summarily dismissed.
In today’s political climate, too many activists believe the ends justify the means, especially where Donald Trump is involved. But the right to due process applies even to murderers and rapists so it surely applies to Donald Trump, too.
As a Republican who desperately wants my party to end its cultish relationship with the 45th president, I know that legal shenanigans only tighten Trump’s parasitic grip on a large segment of the GOP.
The lawsuit claims that Trump is guilty of “insurrection” and therefore should be disqualified from the ballot under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Section 3 of that amendment says, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military … who having previously taken an oath … as an officer of the United States … shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Plaintiffs claim that Trump’s activities around the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol constitute insurrection. They cite numerous government proceedings which use that term. What they lack is a criminal conviction of Trump for insurrection as specifically defined by Section 2383 of the Federal Code.
In fact, after a three-year investigation, the hyper-political, Biden administration’s Department of Justice has filed two cases bringing 43 charges but has not charged Trump with insurrection. Nobody will accuse Special Counsel Jack Smith of being overly cautious, so be sure that he did not charge Trump with insurrection because he knew he could not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
If Trump were charged with insurrection, he would have the opportunity to defend himself using standards applicable in criminal law. If found guilty, he could certainly be barred from being a candidate.
Instead, the Colorado plaintiffs, three of whom I know and respect, are unwisely asking Denver District Court to shortcut Trump’s right to defend himself in criminal court and instead make a civil finding that Trump “engaged in” insurrection.
A district court in Colorado is not the proper venue for a determination that would disrupt a nationwide election. Plaintiffs in other states have made similar claims, so far unsuccessfully. A Florida judge – appointed by President Obama – wisely rejected a voter lawsuit, finding they lacked standing and their claims of injury “are not cognizable and not particular to them.”
Denver District Court should likewise shun the temptation to engage in legal gymnastics which, if successful, would play into Trump’s narrative that elections are rigged and throw gas on the simmering flames of political polarization.
“Anyone who believes in democracy must let the voters decide,” wrote Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State whom Trump ridiculed and criticized after losing that state in 2020. Raffensperger adhered to the rule of law, and Georgia voters rewarded him with a comfortable re-election in 2022.
For the record, I believe it would be a terrible mistake for Republicans to nominate Trump again. The devastation he’s visited on other Republican candidates is obvious, especially here in Colorado where the anti-Trump backlash among middle-of-the-road voters has given Democrats their most successful statewide elections in over 100 years and made Republicans nearly irrelevant. Anyone who cannot see the Trump factor in the progressive ascendency here is as blind as those who ignore President Biden’s obvious cognitive decline.
The only way to drive a stake through Trump’s candidacy and the accompanying grift machine is to beat him at the polls fairly and squarely. If Republicans do that in the primary, Trump will throw a tantrum and attempt to destroy what’s left of the Republican Party, proving yet again that he cares more about himself than the party or the country.
That’s a painful cleansing process, like that of an alcoholic or drug addict returning to sobriety, but Republicans have brought it upon themselves.
Meanwhile, Democrats simultaneously decry Trump as a threat to democracy while perpetuating Trumpism through frivolous lawsuits and by propping up Biden, perhaps the only candidate who makes Trump look favorable by comparison.
Americans deserve a free and fair election determined by the people – not another one determined by dubious legal machinations.
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and as a member of the Republican National Committee.
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