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Maine joins Colorado in banning Trump from running for office

It is the second state to decide not to allow the Republican to participate in the presidential primaries because of the attack on the Capitol. Michigan decided Wednesday that he can run

Former President Donald Trump
Donald Trump, on December 19 in Iowa, at a rally prior to the primaries. Associated Press/LaPresse Only Italy and SpainCharlie Neibergall (AP/ LAPRESSE)
Iker Seisdedos

And Maine said no. The Northeastern state’s Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, decided Thursday that Donald Trump cannot run in that state’s primary because she interprets the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which incorporates a now well-known “disqualification” clause for anyone who has participated in a “rebellion or insurrection,” as preventing him from doing so.

The decision comes after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled last week that the former president is not eligible to run for president in that state, under the same reading of the 14th Amendment. The Michigan Supreme Court, on the other hand, decided that he could run for president in that state. Five others, including Arizona, Florida or New Hampshire, have rejected similar lawsuits seeking to disqualify Trump in his aspiration to return to the White House in November 2024.

The last word on his eligibility or not to run for office will be made by the Supreme Court in Washington. The decision made by the highest judicial instance in the country, with a conservative majority and three justices appointed by Trump, will have an effect on all 50 states.

Bellows, who is a Democrat, justified in writing her resolution by appealing to Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. “I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection,” Bellows argued in a 34-page document.

The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. It sanctioned the equality of all persons before the law and granted citizenship to slaves. Section 3 was intended to prevent Confederate insurgents from ever holding public office again. It has rarely been enforced; only twice since 1919.

The clause — which has been at the center of an acrimonious political-legal debate in this final stretch of the year — reads: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State [...] who, having previously taken an oath [...] 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.”

Both the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine Secretary of State consider that what Trump did both in the lead-up to and on January 6, 2021 — the day he called for a demonstration in Washington that ended in the attack on the Capitol — an act of insurrection and that his fiery diatribe that inflamed his support was not protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech

Both courts also understand that this prohibition can be applied to the office of president. And that is another part of the constitutional text that is open to interpretation: Trump’s lawyers argue that the president is not an officer of the United States and that his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” is not the same as the oath to “support” it, as described in the 14th Amendment.

The Michigan Supreme Court decision did not go into the issue, merely stating that it is “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court.”

The tycoon’s legal team has five days to appeal Bellows’ decision to a Maine superior court.

The primaries in Maine, a state that tends to vote Democratic, are part of Super Tuesday, which will be held next March 5. It is a decisive day for the presidential primaries, when the greatest number of U.S. states hold primary elections. Trump has a comfortable lead in the race for the Republican nomination: no one, neither Nikki Haley nor Ron DeSantis, the two best placed candidates, seems capable of overshadowing him.

Given Maine’s particular system, which allows electoral votes to be split, Trump one electoral vote in Maine in the 2016 and 2020 elections. To become president of the United States, a candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes.

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