Supreme Court hears Trump 14th Amendment case arguments

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

The Supreme Court indicated Thursday that it is prepared to uphold former President Donald Trump and fend off a large-scale challenge to his eligibility to appear on the Colorado ballot.

Here are the key takeaways from Thursday's oral arguments:

Conservatives suggest several ways to side with Trump: Throughout 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 passing a law. Others looked at more fundamental questions about whether courts removing a candidate from the ballot were democratic.

“Your position has the effect of disenfranchising voters to a large extent,” conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in one of the most striking exchanges with lawyers.

If Trump is excluded from the ballot in Colorado, Chief Justice John Roberts predicted that states would eventually attempt to eliminate other candidates from the ballot. This, he pointed out, would be inconsistent with the purpose and history of the 14th Amendment. “It will depend on a handful of states deciding the presidential election,” Roberts said. “That’s a pretty daunting consequence.”

Jackson and the liberals have tough questions for their challengers: Another sign that the court was leaning toward Trump's position: Even some liberal justices asked tough questions of lawyers representing his opponents.

Notably, Joe Biden nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said the 14th Amendment provision does not include the word “president,” even though it specifically lists other officials who would be covered, such as members of Congress . This is a central argument made by Trump's lawyers in this case. “I guess that makes me worry that maybe they weren't focused on the president,” Jackson said.

Justice Elena Kagan questioned the implications of a single state's ban on a presidential candidate. “Why should a single state have the ability to make this decision not only for its own citizens, but also for the rest of the nation? » asked Kagan.

The justices did not focus on Trump's actions on January 6: The nine justices spent little time on the former president's actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that sparked election protests in Colorado and elsewhere. In fact, there were more questions about the Civil War and how the Constitution's 14th Amendment ban on insurrection was enacted in order to combat Confederates fighting against the Union.

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