Supreme Court hears Trump 14th Amendment case arguments

Jonathan Mitchell, an attorney representing former President Donald Trump, speaks in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments on February 8.
Jonathan Mitchell, an attorney representing former President Donald Trump, speaks in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments on February 8. Bill Hennessy

The Supreme Court signaled Thursday it is poised to back former President Donald Trump and fend off a blockbuster challenge to his eligibility to appear on Colorado’s ballot.

Here are key takeaways from Thursday’s oral arguments:

Conservatives suggest several ways to side with Trump: Throughout the course of the arguments, the court’s conservatives repeatedly questioned whether the insurrection ban was intended to apply to former presidents and whether the ban could be enforced without Congress first enacting a law. Others delved into more fundamental questions about whether courts removing a candidate from the ballot is democratic.

“Your position has the effect of disenfranchising voters to a significant degree,” conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in one of the more striking exchanges with attorneys.

If Trump is removed from the ballot in Colorado, Chief Justice John Roberts predicted that states would eventually attempt to knock other candidates off the ballot. That, he signaled, would be inconsistent with the purpose and history of the 14th Amendment. “It’ll come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election,” Roberts said. “That’s a pretty daunting consequence.”

Jackson and liberals have tough questions for challengers: Another sign that the court was leaning toward Trump’s position: Even some of the liberal justices posed difficult questions to the lawyers representing his challengers.

Notably, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Joe Biden nominee, said that the 14th Amendment provision did not include the word “president,” even though it specifically listed other officials who would be covered, such as members of Congress. That is a central argument Trump’s attorneys have raised in the case. “I guess that just makes me worry that maybe they weren’t focused on the president,” Jackson said.

Justice Elena Kagan questioned the implications of a single state banning a candidate in a presidential election. “Why should a single state have the ability to make this determination not only for their own citizens, but for the rest of the nation?” Kagan asked.

Justices didn’t focus on Trump’s January 6 actions: The nine justices spent little time on the former president’s actions surrounding the January 6 attack on the US Capitol that sparked the ballot challenge in Colorado and elsewhere. There were more questions, in fact, about the Civil War and how the insurrectionist ban in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution was enacted in order to grapple with confederates who fought against the Union.

First appeared on

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top