Legal Analysts React After Judge Finds Trump ‘Engaged in an Insurrection’

A Colorado judge’s ruling on Friday that Donald Trump committed an insurrection against the United States Constitution has prompted a flurry of reactions from legal experts.

The former president is currently seeking a second term in the White House after losing to Joe Biden in 2020, and currently leads the pack of 2024 GOP candidates by a massive polling margin. At the same time, he is also weathering numerous legal challenges seeking to remove him from the ballot in various states, with critics saying that his attempts to overturn the results of the last presidential election constituted an insurrection and should disqualify him from seeking elected office, as is stipulated by the 14th Amendment.

On Friday, District Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled on such a challenge in Colorado, giving the former president both a win and a rebuke at the same time. While Wallace, who was appointed by the state’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis, ruled that Trump could remain on the state’s ballot, she also concluded that he “engaged in an insurrection” due to his actions in the wake of the 2020 election, giving fuel to a potential appeal against her decision.

In response to an inquiry from Newsweek on Saturday, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung provided an official statement celebrating the dismissal of the ballot challenge, while not touching on Wallace’s ruling that Trump incited an insurrection.

“We applaud today’s ruling in Colorado, which is another nail in the coffin of the un-American ballot challenges,” Cheung’s statement read. “With this decision, Democrats‘ 14th Amendment challenges have now been defeated in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. These cases represent the most cynical and blatant political attempts to interfere with the upcoming presidential election by desperate Democrats who know Crooked Joe Biden is a failed president on the fast track to defeat.”

Meanwhile, the judge’s ruling prompted several reactions from various legal experts on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, with the likes of former Judge J. Michael Luttig taking issue with Wallace’s logic stating that the president is not an “officer of the United States.”

“It is unfathomable as a matter of constitutional interpretation that the Presidency of the United States is not an ‘office under the United States,’” Luttig, an adviser to Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, wrote Friday. “It is even more constitutionally unfathomable, if that’s possible, that the former president did not take an oath ‘to support the Constitution of the United States’ within the meaning of Section 3 when he took the presidential oath ‘to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

Later he added: “The Constitution is not a suicide pact with America’s democracy. Indeed, it is the very contrary in this instance. It is plain that the entire purpose of Section 3, confirmed by its literal text, is to disqualify any person who, having taken an oath to support the Constitution, engages in an insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution. The former president did exactly that when he attempted to overturn the 2020 election and remain in office in rebellious violation of the Constitution’s Executive Vesting Clause, which prescribes the four-year term of the presidency.”

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard University, took a similar issue with Wallace’s ruling.

“Judge Wallace held that anyone but a former president who did what she found Trump did — take an oath to the Constitution and then break that oath by engaging in a violent insurrection — could never again run for any public office,” Tribe wrote on X on Saturday. “So much for nobody being above the law!”

“You mean you think it seems odd that the drafters of the 14th Amendment would have decided that an insurrectionist should hold no federal office other than the presidency?” George Conway, a lawyer and outspoken conservative critic of Trump, wrote in response to Tribe. “Or that the president is not an ‘officer’ of the United States under a Constitution that explicitly refers to the presidency as an ‘office’?”

Conversely, conservative legal analyst Jonathan Turley took a different issue with Wallace’s ruling, decrying her finding that Trump had incited the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Turley has, in the past, frequently dismissed efforts to remove Trump from the ballot as unfounded and argued that the the attack on the Capitol was not his responsibility.

“While Judge Wallace reached the right conclusion, she committed, in my view, fundamental errors in her analysis on the free speech elements of the case,” Turley wrote Saturday. “As it stands, we will have to wait to see if Secretary Griswald [sic] has the confidence of her convictions to appeal. I hope that she does. We need to put this insidious legal theory to rest with the finality and clarity of a Supreme Court decision.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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