14th Amendment Interpretation Removed Couy Griffin and Now Donald Trump?
On Monday morning in Denver, a historic five-day evidentiary hearing got underway for a lawsuit filed against Trump by six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters represented by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington(CREW) as reported by ABC News. A similar hearing is set for Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
CREW President Noah Bookbinder has said that his organization brought its suit in Colorado because "it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future." The group's complaint accuses Trump of inciting and aiding the mob at the Capitol two years ago, which he denies. He was impeached on similar charges but acquitted by Republicans in the Senate.
The legal battle that is brewing is the result of a victory for the removal of Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin using the 14th Amendement. The legal battle that is brewing over whether the 14th Amendment disqualifies Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential election because of Jan. 6 -- would mark an unprecedented and controversial development according to ABC News.
But it is not unprecedented, CREW has already won, a case with that exact argument used in New Mexico.
Former Otero County, New Mexico, Commissioner Couy Griffin was disqualified almost exactly a year ago after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) sued to eject him from his role under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Trump and his campaign have dismissed the 14th Amendment clause being used against him. "The people who are pursuing this absurd conspiracy theory and political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition," a spokesperson previously said in a statement.
Section 3 states that someone isn't eligible for future office if, while they were previously in office, they took an oath to support the Constitution but then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or [gave] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof," unless they are granted amnesty by a two-thirds vote of Congress. It is not a criminal penalty.
Griffin's Section 3 case was a bench trial decided by a state judge and he has since twice appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, to no avail. Griffin was convicted of trespassing at the U.S. Capitol two years ago, though he said he did not enter the building with the mob. He was found not guilty of a disorderly conduct charge. He served jail time in Washington, D.C., after being found guilty in 2022.
Griffin told ABC News "I don't care if you're talking about a conservative or a liberal -- you shouldn't be able to use a court to remove an elected official," he said from New Mexico. "That was their [CREW's] plan. They started with me. It's never been about Couy Griffin, it's been about Trump."
Griffin may indeed be correct. An attorney for CREW claimed in an opening statement that "Trump incited a violent mob to attack our cattle to stop the peaceful transfer of power under our Constitution. ... And we are here because Trump claims after all that he has the right to be president again."
The idea has also been endorsed by some conservative legal scholars, though some notable Republican elections officials, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has criticized Trump's election rhetoric, have been skeptical of it.
Multiple state-level suits have been filed, but Colorado and Minnesota are seen as the most notable and have prompted the first major hearings on the issue.
Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, has rejected motions to dismiss.
Trump's team also unsuccessfully sought for the case to be moved from state to federal court. on Nov. 15, the various parties will come back to court to deliver closing arguments. Wallace has indicated she will issue a ruling within 48 hours of that.
No witness lists have been released but Trump will not testify, according to his lawyers. An earlier motion to depose Trump so that his testimony may be presented at the hearing was denied by Wallace.
He has been fundraising off of the start of the hearing, as is typical with each court hearing he has been tasked with of late.
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday will hear a similar challenge brought by Free Speech For People (FSFP), a nonprofit representing several state voters, including a former state secretary and a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice.
That hearing, which is expected to be of a smaller scope than the multiday hearing in Denver, will decide whether or not Trump can appear on the Minnesota primary ballot.
Source: ABC News, Couy Griffin, AlamogordoTownNews.com
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