Montana leaders weigh in on Trump’s revolt at the US Supreme Court

Donald Trump addresses a crowd during a rally held in Casper, Wyoming.

Montana has a keen interest in Colorado.

Montana politicians are expressing their opinions on the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling that disqualified former President and leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, from the 2024 ballot.

At least three influential leaders from Montana have submitted amicus curiae briefs to the United States Supreme Court, expressing the state’s vested interest in the matter at hand. As the scheduled hearing approaches, the Supreme Court is receiving a multitude of briefs and legal arguments from various states across the country. A decision is anticipated before “Super Tuesday,” which falls on March 6th.

Two of the briefs assert that the Colorado Supreme Court erred in its ruling to disqualify Trump from the ballot, while one brief supports the decision. The supporting brief is being advocated by a coalition of former Republican governors, which includes Marc Racicot from Montana.

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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen has teamed up with 16 other state attorneys general to question the authority of one state to remove a candidate from the ballot, which could have a negative impact on voters in other states. Additionally, Steve Daines, Montana’s junior senator and the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, argues that according to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, only Congress has the power to remove a president for inciting insurrection, and states cannot prevent a citizen from running for office.

Former governors weigh in

Racicot, along with former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, argues that Trump’s actions and endorsement of the January 6, 2021 invasion of the U.S. Capitol to hinder the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, a Democrat, constituted a breach of the 14th Amendment.

“The former Republican governors make a compelling case for the logic behind the prohibition of the Fourteenth Amendment. They argue that in order for a democratic republic to thrive, acts of treason or treachery must not be overlooked or swept under the rug. Ignoring such offenses would only provide an opportunity for the perpetrators to once again betray the people and undermine the very foundations of our Constitution.”

The governors assert that the Colorado Supreme Court did not independently choose to bar Trump, but rather that there was a fair trial and due process involved.

The brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court highlights Mr. Trump’s failure to fulfill his oath of office. It asserts that he engaged in plotting, colluding, inciting, and tolerating an insurrection. The document emphasizes that Mr. Trump had access to skilled legal counsel and was given ample opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, present rebuttal evidence, and even testify.

The Colorado district trial court and Supreme Court reached the conclusion that Trump had engaged in insurrection, violating the 14th Amendment, after the trial.

The brief asserts that the disqualification clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment cannot be waived, ignored, or disregarded.

The former governors also make the point that the fact that the 14th Amendment hasn’t been invoked in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be used against Trump. They argue that previous U.S. Presidents have never behaved in a manner that would undermine the stability and established practice of a peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

“The application of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to a presidential candidate may be unprecedented, but this does not diminish the importance or the unequivocal nature of the constitutional requirement,” the statement reads. “What makes this case particularly extraordinary is the unprecedented and unimaginable nature of the conduct in question; never before has our nation witnessed a president inciting an insurrection to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and secure his position in office. Furthermore, it is unheard of for a president, after the failure of his insurrectionist attempts, to subsequently pursue the presidency once again.”

States: We need some clarity

Attorneys general from different parts of the country have been expressing their opinions on various matters in the case. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, along with other prominent lawyers, has put forth the argument that the United States Supreme Court should consider taking up the case. This action is necessary not only to resolve the dispute but also to prevent the emergence of inconsistent rules across the nation. Such inconsistency could result in candidates being allowed to appear in some states while being disqualified in others.

One of the arguments put forth is that the Presidency of the United States stands alone as a distinct category. This is due to the fact that it is the sole elected position determined by electors across all 50 states. As a result, the selection process necessitates a national decision rather than one based on individual states.

The attorneys general are arguing that the impact of a patchwork of decisions may extend beyond individual states and actually diminish the voting power of citizens in other states.

According to a statement, when a presidential candidate is excluded by one state, the value of votes for that candidate in other states diminishes. Furthermore, if multiple states exclude the candidate, their votes in other states become completely worthless.

According to the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, those attorneys general argue that the body responsible for deciding a matter of insurrection is Congress, not the courts.

The brief also contends that the term “insurrection” lacks a clear definition and has been used interchangeably with other terms, such as “rebellion,” leading to inconsistent and contradictory rulings in various states.

The brief argued against allowing individual states and their courts to determine eligibility for the presidency using flexible standards, stating that it would result in an impractical and inconsistent set of requirements for presidential eligibility.

The group asserts that insurrection holds a weightier significance than what the Colorado courts concluded, likening it more to an invasion or rebellion rather than a mere act of obstruction.

The attorneys general brief, similar to Daines’ argument, emphasizes the role of Congress in determining whether a President has committed insurrection. According to the brief, it is the responsibility of Congress to make this decision, as the voters should have the right to choose their preferred president, including Trump. Subsequently, Congress holds the authority to assess whether he engaged in insurrection.

They also highlight the fact that Congress has previously determined that Trump did not partake in insurrection, which serves as a clear illustration of how the process has already been effective.

According to the report, President Trump faced two impeachment trials initiated by Congress, where he was accused of inciting insurrection. Despite the strong application of these powers, the Senate ultimately acquitted him on both occasions.

According to the brief’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress has the authority to determine whether or not Trump participated in an insurrection. If Congress decides that he did not engage in insurrection, then Trump would remain eligible for the presidency. However, if Congress determines that he did engage in insurrection, he would become ineligible, resulting in the vice president assuming the presidency.

The attorneys general argue in their filing that the question at hand is political in nature, rather than judicial.

“The brief argues that the Constitution does not provide for the judiciary to question the decision made by the states regarding a candidate’s eligibility for the presidency. It emphasizes that allowing courts to assess presidential eligibility on a state-by-state basis would lead to chaos.”

Electors get to choose candidates

Daines, representing the National Republican Senatorial Committee, focuses his argument on the differentiation between being listed on the ballot and actually winning the election.

In the 23-page brief submitted to the Supreme Court, it was argued that removing Trump from the ballot deprives voters of their First Amendment rights to freely associate and speak by choosing their preferred representative.

According to him, it is not within the authority of the states or their courts to establish separate regulations for presidential candidates. This responsibility falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment implies that Congress holds the power to determine whether Trump was involved in an insurrection, but it is crucial for voters to have the opportunity to decide whether they want to vote for him or not.

According to the brief, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment clearly states that it disqualifies individuals from holding certain offices but does not prevent them from running for office. The brief also argues that this provision poses a threat to the 2024 election as it could potentially undermine the American people’s right to elect the president by transferring that power to state courts.

According to court documents, it is argued that Colorado, along with potentially other states, is not permitted to impose additional requirements beyond those specified by the U.S. Constitution for the election of a president. The brief asserts that such actions are unlawful and infringe upon citizens’ constitutional rights.

The brief argued that if individual states were allowed to set their own qualifications for the presidency, it could lead to conflicting requirements across different states. This could ultimately prevent any candidate from being elected as president, as no candidate would be able to secure a majority of votes in the Electoral College.

The argument draws a clear line between individuals who are eligible to be listed on the ballot and those who are qualified to hold public office.

Daines argues that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution provides clarity on the issue. According to the amendment, if a president is disqualified, the vice president will serve the term or hold office until the president becomes eligible again.

According to the court brief, it is evident from the straightforward language of Section 3 that its disqualification only pertains to individuals currently holding one of the specified offices, rather than those who are aspiring to attain them.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The date of passage for this information is 1868, and the source can be found on Constitution.Congress.gov.

Section 1

Every individual who is born or becomes a citizen of the United States, and is under its jurisdiction, is considered a citizen of both the United States and the state in which they live. No state is allowed to pass or enforce any law that restricts the rights and freedoms of U.S. citizens. Furthermore, no state can take away a person’s life, liberty, or property without following due legal procedures. In addition, every person within a state’s jurisdiction is entitled to equal protection under the law.

Section 2

The allocation of representatives among the states depends on the population of each state, including all individuals except for untaxed Indians. However, if any male inhabitants of a state, who are twenty-one years old and U.S. citizens, are denied the right to vote in any election for President, Vice-President, Representatives in Congress, State Executive and Judicial officers, or members of the State Legislature, except for reasons such as participation in rebellion or other crimes, the representation of that state will be reduced proportionally to the number of such male citizens compared to the total number of male citizens aged twenty-one and above in that state.

Section 3

Any individual who has previously taken an oath to support the United States Constitution as a member of Congress, an officer of the United States, a member of a State legislature, or an executive or judicial officer of any State, shall be disqualified from holding certain positions. These positions include being a Senator or Representative in Congress, an elector of the President and Vice-President, or any civil or military office under the United States or any State, if they have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or provided assistance to its enemies. However, Congress has the power to remove this disability through a two-thirds vote in each House.

Section 4

The United States acknowledges the legitimacy of its public debt, which is legally authorized. This includes debts taken on to pay pensions and rewards for services rendered in quelling insurrections or rebellions. However, neither the United States nor any individual state will accept or fulfill any debt or obligation incurred to support insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claims related to the loss or emancipation of slaves. Such debts, obligations, and claims are considered unlawful and null.

Section 5

The Congress has the authority to enforce the provisions of this article through suitable legislation.

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