Colorado Supreme Court kicks Trump off ballot

Colorado’s Supreme Court has ruled that Donald Trump cannot run for president next year in the state, citing a constitutional insurrection clause. The court ruled 4-3 that he was not an eligible candidate because he had engaged in an insurrection over the US Capitol riot nearly three years ago. It does not stop him running in the other states and his campaign says it will appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The ruling only mentions the state’s primary election on March 5, when Republican voters will choose their preferred candidate for president. But it could affect the general election in Colorado next November. It is the first ever use of Section 3 of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment to disqualify a presidential candidate. Tuesday’s decision, which has been placed on hold pending appeal until next month, only applies in Colorado.

Similar attempts to kick Trump off the ballot in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Michigan have failed. The justices do not reach these conclusions lightly. The justices are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. The justices are likewise mindful of their solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates they reach.

The decision reverses an earlier one from a Colorado judge, who ruled that the 14th Amendment’s insurrection ban did not apply to presidents because the section did not explicitly mention them.

That same lower court judge also found that Trump had participated in an insurrection in the US Capitol riot. His supporters stormed Congress on January 6, 2021, while lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision does not go into effect until January 4, 2024. That is the eve of the deadline for the state to print its presidential primary ballots.

The Trump campaign called the ruling “completely flawed” and lambasted the justices, who were all appointed by Democratic governors. It stated Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead he has amassed in the polls. Democrat Party leaders have lost faith in the failed Biden presidency and are now doing everything they can to stop the American voters from throwing them out of office next November.

The Trump campaign added that his legal team would “swiftly file an appeal” to the US Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 6 to 3 majority. The decision would help Democrats by supporting their argument that the US Capitol riot was an attempted insurrection. It would also aid Democrats in showcasing “the stark differences” between him and Biden.

Republican lawmakers condemned the decision, including House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, who called it “a thinly veiled partisan attack”.

Republicans stated that regardless of political affiliation, every citizen registered to vote should not be denied the right to support Trump and the individual who is the leader in every poll of the Republican primary. On the campaign trail his Republican primary rivals also assailed the ruling, with Vivek Ramaswamy pledging to withdraw his name from the ballot if his candidacy is not reinstated. Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa on Tuesday night, he did not address the ruling, but a fundraising email sent by his campaign to supporters said “this is how dictatorships are born”.

The Colorado Republican Party also responded, saying it would withdraw from the state’s primary process if the ruling was allowed to stand. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the group that brought the case, welcomed the ruling. It is not only historic and justified, but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in the country.

The 14th Amendment was ratified after the American Civil War. Section 3 was intended to block secessionists from returning to previous government roles once southern states re-joined the Union. It was used against Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his vice-president Alexander Stephens, both of whom had served in Congress. It has seldom been invoked since.

Trump lost the state of Colorado by a wide margin in the last presidential election.

But if courts in more competitive states followed suit on Tuesday’s ruling, Trump’s White House bid could face serious problems. During a one-week trial in Colorado last month, hiss lawyers argued he should not be disqualified because he did not bear responsibility for the US Capitol riot. But in its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court majority disagreed.

The Colorado Supreme Court said Trump’s messages before the riot were a “call to his supporters to fight and his supporters responded to that call”. Carlos Samour, one of three justices who dissented, argued the government could not “deprive someone of the right to hold public office without due process of law”. Even if the Colorado Supreme Court is convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past, Samour believes there must be procedural due process before the Colorado Supreme Court can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office.

Trump is facing four criminal cases, including one federal and one state case in Georgia related to his alleged election subversion efforts. In August 2020, it is too early to tell how much Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate will help boost support for the Democratic ticket among African American voters. But this much is clear: Increasing Black turnout from 2016 levels will be critical to Biden’s ability to win back key battleground states.

The Republican 2016 victory was mostly attributable to the defection of white working-class voters to Trump.

But Trump’s breakthrough might not have been possible without a post-Obama decline in turnout and support for Democrats among Black voters. Data from the census shows that in 2012, 66% of eligible Black voters turned out to vote, and exit polls showed that they supported the Obama/Biden ticket by 87 points. But in 2016, only 59% of Black voters turned out, and exit polls showed the all-white Clinton/Kaine ticket carried those voters by just 81 points.

African American voters account for roughly 12% of eligible voters nationally, and they account for a substantial share of the vote in 6 of the 7 states Trump carried by 5 points or less in 2016: Florida (15%), Georgia (32%), Michigan (13%), North Carolina (22%), Pennsylvania (10%), and Wisconsin (6%). The decline in African American turnout and Democratic support from 2012 to 2016 was probably enough to tip at least Michigan and Wisconsin, and possibly Florida and Pennsylvania, to Trump. Declines in Black turnout may have tipped the race to Trump in 2016.

Amping up African American enthusiasm could pay particular dividends for Biden in Wisconsin, where the Clinton campaign spent scant resources and turnout in Milwaukee plummeted. But even in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, where Black turnout was more robust, there were 397,000, 488,000, and 370,000 eligible Black voters, respectively, who failed to turn out last time. If Biden had a glaring weakness in the primaries, it was with young voters, who strongly backed Bernie Sanders.

And if there is one group whose turnout dropped precipitously between the Obama era and 2016, it is younger voters of color.

Harris never gained much traction with any group in the 2020 primaries. But limited polling data in the past month shows that Harris, 55, who is more than two decades younger than the 77-year-old Biden, could marginally benefit him. Harris had a similar net favorability among 18 to 29 year-old voters (38% favorable to 34% unfavorable) to Biden (51% to 46%), and a higher net favorability among 35 to 44 year-old voters (44% to 33%) than Biden (49% to 47%).

Trump and his campaign’s surrogates have already begun attacking the Biden/Harris ticket as a pairing of coastal elites out of touch with middle America. But Biden and Harris are the first ticket without an Ivy League degree in four decades, and polling suggests the burden of proof rests on Republicans. Harris’ favorability in the Midwest at 46% to 31% is higher than her national favorability and much higher than Vice President Mike Pence’s favorability in the Midwest (35% to 53%).

At least initially, at a time when voters desire racial unity and give Trump awful marks on his handling of race relations, it is hard to see Harris as anything other than a plus for Biden. After all, Biden already has a good track record running on a national ticket with an African American attorney in a first term as senator from a blue state. A pandemic summer marked by testing delays, supply shortages, and continued spread of the covid virus has set the stage for a disheartening start to the fall across much of the United States, with the shuttering of schools and cancellation of college football seasons that officials had once hoped would herald a return to normalcy more than six months into the crisis.

But inside the White House, Trump’s top political aides are increasingly assured about their response — feeling like they are finally getting a handle on how to fight the disease.

As the crippling crisis turns toward heading into a third season, an alternate reality is taking shape inside the White House even in the face of spiking case counts, long lags in test processing and a covid death toll that regularly tops 1,000 Americans a day. Trump aides are growing confident about what they see as measurable progress: new therapeutic measures, delivery of health recommendations tailored to individual states, extensive support for vaccine development, and steps to ensure hospitals have enough protective equipment and ventilators. Officials internally are also pleased with two changes from Trump himself: The president wearing a mask at times, after avoiding the preventive measure for months, and his resumption of near-daily news briefings, which they feel show Trump is attuned to the crisis and driving the response despite the wide-ranging nature of the events.

The White House is attempting to convey the perception of control, even as a handful of top aides including chief of staff Mark Meadows express skepticism privately about guidance from the government’s leading scientists. A key goal is to demonstrate they are once again on top of Americans’ No. 1 concern, after first pushing states to reopen before they met the government’s own benchmarks and then downplaying the worsening spread of the virus for months. Covid is the White House’s focus right now.

Data was showing it was beginning to subside in late May and early June. As the public started giving up on many of the mitigation practices, the government had to adapt. The White House’s own rosy portrait of its response and the president’s upbeat projections — such as his repeated insistence that the virus will “go away” — contrasts with the continued high caseload in states such as Texas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland.

Many Americans still cannot send children to school or work from their offices, attend sporting events, or go outside without a mask.

Receiving the results of covid tests often takes days or weeks, making it impossible to quickly identify and isolate infected individuals or trace their contacts. American travelers are banned from entering much of the world, including most European countries, which have done a far better job of containing the virus. When you compare a disaster to an outright disaster, the disaster does not seem so bad.

It is doubtful that the Trump administration knows what ‘under control’ would look like. The Trump administration is doing its best. It is just one of those situations. It is likewise doubtful that the Trump administration even knows what the goal is. Trump is heading into fall and winter months that could prove even more perilous for the nation, with the spread of covid coinciding with flu season — a dangerous combination public health officials have been dreading.

The fall could be incredibly gruesome, the Trump administration largely squandered the summer months, leaving the nation no better protected than it was in June. Somebody is going to have to explain it to Americans, 10 years from now, why the government would make all these bad choices. Some allies in recent weeks have questioned whether Trump’s resumption of regular news briefings is helping his reelection case, worrying that the largely optimistic sessions — punctuated by the president’s insistence the virus will eventually “disappear” — are at odds with deepening economic and health crises playing out on the ground.

The White House in recent weeks has moved to sideline its less optimistic health officials and rely more heavily on Doctor Scott Atlas, a new senior adviser whose Fox News appearances and vocal push to reopen schools caught the attention of top aides such as Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks.

Atlas now attends a morning meeting, separate from the covid task force, with other key aides such as Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Deborah Birx, Adam Boehler, and Brad Smith. Sometimes Meadows attends, too — though in recent weeks, he spent much of his time on Capitol Hill trying to negotiate a fourth economic stimulus package. Atlas, a neuroradiologist, also took to the podium at Wednesday’s briefing at Trump’s invitation and spoke at an event the same day on the need for schools to reopen.

The goal of the small group is to ensure the White House can make quicker daily decisions on the covid response. But the group also happens to exclude many of the administration’s top health officials such as the heads of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Doctor Anthony Fauci. “President Trump has led a historic, whole-of-America coronavirus response — resulting in 100,000 ventilators procured, sourcing critical PPE for our frontline heroes and a robust testing regime resulting in more than double the number of tests than any other country in the world,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews declared.

This leadership will continue as we reopen the economy, expedite development of a vaccine and therapeutics, and continue to see an encouraging decline in the United States mortality rate. The reopening — or lack of opening — of schools this fall provides another inflection point for Americans to grade the administration’s handling of the virus. Trump’s July push to fully reopen schools has collapsed in the face of state resistance and rising caseloads throughout early August, as increasing numbers of schools and universities opt to begin classes partially or fully online.

In Arizona, where Republican Governor Doug Ducey initially advocated for trying to fully reopen schools, the state is now urging counties to clear three benchmarks for controlling the virus’ spread before school districts resume in-person classes.

A week before classes are set to begin, no Arizona county meets that criteria. Those states that have tried to send kids back into school have been met with discouraging results. Twenty-two Mississippi schools have reported covid cases, a number that is likely to grow. Georgia’s Cherokee County shuttered a high school after identifying a rash of cases, forcing more than 1,000 students to quarantine.

That came after another of the state’s high schools temporarily closed in the wake of a series of positive tests recorded just days after photos of its crowded hallways went viral. By Columbus Day, 80 percent of kids in United States will be online, and it might be higher than that. What Americans needed was a real, detailed plan to open up schools and keep them safe so kids could stay there for an extended period of time.

United States is going to end up with kids largely remote for the rest of this pandemic. Trump administration officials in recent weeks largely backed off efforts to persuade governors to send kids back to class, as it became increasingly apparent there was little enthusiasm, or scientific evidence, for Trump’s declarations that children are “almost immune” from covid. Since telling governors in early July that it is the recommendation of the president and the task force that they reopen schools, Vice President Mike Pence has rarely made school reopenings a major topic of his weekly calls with state leaders.

Pence has really maintained more of a ‘let states make this decision’ sort of approach.

Pence acknowledged to governors in his weekly call that ensuring classrooms are safe will require additional funding, and the total amount of money remains a sticking point in stalled negotiations in Congress over a next covid relief package. The White House wants to earmark around $100 billion for schools in the next legislation, while Democrats have come back with a much higher number. Trump later debuted a vague new set of recommendations for schools that included basic advice like ensuring students and staff to “understand the symptoms of covid”.

Trump wanted to be very, very safe and careful, a sharp contrast to his Twitter mandate just a week ago to “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!” At the briefing on Wednesday, Trump said his administration was exploring the idea of directing federal school payments to parents instead of districts to give parents options if their local school did not open. “When you sit at home in a basement looking at a computer, your brain starts to wither away. We have a lot of good experience at that just by taking a look at what is happening in politics,” Trump said at the briefing in an apparent swipe at his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

As the United States heads into the fall, the reaction to the White House’s handling of the covid remains split along party lines. On average, roughly 77 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s handling of the covid compared with just roughly 8 percent of Democrats. One Republican lobbyist argued some Americans will complain “until a vaccine comes” regardless of the moves the White House tries to take.

But others blame the Trump administration for downplaying the threat of the virus.

They argue that the months of setbacks and failures, likely to continue well into the fall, are the result of an administration that has resisted developing any clear strategy for fighting the virus, even as it has spent countless hours fine-tuning its messaging and effectively trying to talk its way out of the crisis. The mixed messaging does not do a whole lot for clarity for the general public or confidence-building. Trump has been unable to make the more nuanced case that the administration is both aggressively fighting bad outbreaks, while laying the groundwork for a brighter future.