Lawsuit to ban Donald Trump from running for US president filed by ethics watchdog

A lawsuit aimed at banning Trump from running again as president has been filed by a liberal group. Credit: AP

A liberal group has filed a lawsuit to bar former US President Donald Trump from the primary ballot in Colorado.

They argue that he is ineligible to run for the White House again under a rarely used clause in the US Constitution aimed at candidates who have supported an “insurrection.”

The lawsuit is likely the first step in a legal challenge that seems destined for the Supreme Court.

It has been filed by a nonprofit government ethics and accountability watchdog called the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The move will likely add further drama to the already unsettled 2024 primary campaign that features the leading Republican candidate facing four separate criminal cases.

Liberal groups have demanded that states’ top election officials bar Trump under the clause that prohibits those who “engaged in an insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution from holding higher office.

None has taken that step, looking for guidance from the courts on how to interpret a clause that has only been used a handful of times since the 1860s.

While a people have filed thinly written lawsuits in a few states citing the clause, the litigation on Wednesday was the first by an organisation with significant legal resources.

It may lead to similar challenges in other states, holding out the potential for conflicting rulings that would require the Supreme Court to settle.

Colorado’s secretary of state, Democrat Jena Griswold, said in a statement that she hoped “this case will provide guidance to election officials on Trump’s eligibility as a candidate for office.”

The lawsuit contends the case is clear, given the attempt by then-President Trump to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden and his support for the assault of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The Republican has said he did nothing wrong in his actions.

Trump hopes to run in the 2024 presidential race. Credit: AP

What is the 14th Amendment and what has it been used for in the past?

The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, helped ensure civil rights for freed slaves - and eventually for all people in the United States.

But it also was used to prevent former Confederate officials from becoming members of Congress after the Civil War and taking over the government against which they had just rebelled.

The clause cited in the lawsuit allows Congress to lift the ban, which it did in 1872 as the political will to continue to bar former Confederates dwindled. The provision was almost never used after that.

The clause cites “presidential electors” but not presidents themselves as being disqualified if they previously swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and then broke it.

In its complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the court to expedite the matter so it can be resolved before the state's primary ballot is set on January 5 2024.

A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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