The former president was removed from Colorado’s presidential primary in a landmark state Supreme Court ruling over his role in the January 2021 Capitol attack.
The Colorado Supreme Court declared former President Donald Trump ineligible for the White House under the insurrection clause of the U.S. Constitution and removed him from the state’s presidential primaries.
The move set off a likely showdown in the nation’s highest court to decide whether the favorite for the Republican nomination can remain in the race.
The decision overturns an earlier one by a Colorado judge, who ruled that the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrection did not apply to presidents because the section did not explicitly mention the presidency. The same court found that Trump participated in an insurrection on January 6.
Trump’s lawyers have long promised to immediately appeal any disqualification to the US Supreme Court, which has the final say on constitutional issues.
Trump’s legal spokeswoman, Alina Habba, criticized the decision, saying: “This ruling, issued by the Colorado Supreme Court, attacks the very heart of this nation’s democracy. It will not stand and we are confident that the Supreme Court will strike down this unconstitutional order.”
The twice-impeached former president didn’t mention the decision at a rally Tuesday night in Waterloo, Iowa, but his campaign sent out a fundraising email citing what it called a “tyrannical ruling.”
Trump lost Colorado by 13 percentage points in 2020 and doesn’t need the state to win next year’s presidential election.
However, the danger for the former president is that more courts and election officials will follow Colorado’s lead and exclude Trump from “must-win” states.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed nationwide to disqualify Trump under Section 3 of the Amendment, which was designed to bar former Confederates from returning to government after the Civil War.
Section 3 bars from office anyone who swore an oath to “support” the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it — it has been used only a handful of times since the decade following the Civil War.
While Colorado will likely be seen by some as relatively unimportant to Trump’s potential retaking of the White House, experts say it could be the start of something much bigger.
“I think this might encourage other courts or state secretaries to act now that the blindfold has been torn off,” Derek Muller, a Notre Dame law professor who has closely followed Section 3 cases, said after the ruling. “This it is a grave threat to Trump’s candidacy.”
The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision comes as Trump was forced to defend his recent comments about migrants crossing the southern border “poisoning the blood” of America.
Addressing criticism of his rhetoric head-on, he said at a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa, “I’ve never read ‘Mein Kampf,'” referring to comparisons made to fascist hyperbole.
He said Tuesday that immigrants to the United States are “destroying the blood of our country, they are destroying the fabric of our country.”
Several politicians and extremism experts noted that his language echoed Hitler’s writings on the “purity” of Aryan blood, which was behind Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of millions of Jews and other “undesirables” before and during World War II.
As illegal border crossings increase in the United States – reaching 10,000 on some days in December – Trump continued to criticize Joe Biden for allowing migrants to “pour into our country.” He said, without offering evidence, that they bring with them crime and potentially disease.
“They come from Africa, they come from Asia, they come from South America,” he said, lamenting what he called a “catastrophe at the border.”
The former president has long used inflammatory language about immigrants coming to the United States, dating back to the launch of his campaign in 2015, when he said immigrants from Mexico “bring drugs, they bring crime, they’re rapists.”
Trump has espoused increasingly authoritarian messages in his third campaign, vowing to renew and increase his efforts to exclude citizens of some Muslim-majority countries and to expand “ideological screening” for people immigrating to the United States. He said he would only become dictator on “day one” to close the border and increase drilling.
Polls show that most Americans think immigration is a good thing, with about two-thirds saying the country’s diverse population makes the United States stronger — but Trump’s “blood” purity message could resonate with some voters.
Extremism experts say Trump’s rhetoric resembles the language used by white supremacist killers to justify mass killings.
Trump currently has a huge lead over other candidates in polls of likely Republican voters in Iowa and nationally. Trump’s campaign is hoping for a knockout performance in the caucuses that will deny his rivals momentum and allow him to quickly secure the nomination.