Former President Donald Trump's 2024 campaign team is getting ready to fight state-level legal battles across the country this year against two nonprofit groups that claim a section of the Constitution enacted after the Civil War blocks him from appearing on primary ballots because of his role in the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
"What these undemocratic organizations are doing is blatant election interference and tampering," Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement to The Washington Post. "They are not even trying to hide it anymore and it is sad they want to deprive the American people of choosing Donald Trump — the overwhelming front-runner by far — as their President. History will not judge them kindly."
The nonprofit groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Free Speech for People plan to challenge Trump under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
The section was ratified in 1868 to punish Confederate officers and officials after the Civil War and says that any "officer of the United States" is disqualified from future public office if they have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the United States after taking an oath to support the Constitution.
The groups are arguing that there is evidence that Trump, both before and during the Jan. 6 events, prove he "engaged in insurrection," a claim the House select committee investigating the matter endorsed.
"It is a strategy designed to enforce the Constitution to bar Trump from serving as president," CREW chief counsel Donald Sherman said about the efforts being made by his organization. "We have had two major insurrections in this country. One was the Civil War, which gave rise to Section 3. And one was Jan. 6."
Trump's team will likely argue that he did not engage in "insurrection," that state officials can't bar candidates, that Section 3 should apply to a candidate before an election, and that the section can't be enforced without an act of Congress, according to attorneys who are familiar with the issue.
Section 3 challenges also can't be filed until Trump applies for ballot access this year, meaning judges or election officials can damage the electoral process if they deny GOP voters the ability to choose Trump on a ballot after most of the campaign season has passed, experts say.
"The practical implications of this is the greatest disruption of our electoral system that has been contemplated since the Civil War," said conservative attorney James Bopp, who represented two members of Congress last year after their access to the ballot was unsuccessfully challenged under the Section 3 provisions.
"On a practical level, this is so cynical and would be so destructive, it is actually in my view beyond comprehension," Bopp added.
Lawyers from both sides say that a judge's ruling from any state will likely be appealed to federal court, and then even fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.
The effort to remove Trump could also backfire by drawing Republicans to close ranks around the former president's campaign, the Post reports, pointing out that his poll numbers and fundraising efforts have climbed after he was indicted in Manhattan.
One Trump campaign adviser, who was not named, called the effort a "prime example of election interference" and that means the groups are "writing Donald Trump's message themselves."
"The question is really what judge is going to grant any one of these states the ability to interfere with the American electoral process," the adviser said. "We are very aware of the task before us."
The Trump team is expecting legal challenges in blue states such as California, New York, Connecticut, Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, and Michigan, according to the adviser.
Other states, though, like North Carolina and Georgia, are being seen by some experts as targets for a Section 3 challenge.
Meanwhile, CREW and Free Speech for the People are not required by law to disclose their donors, but both have histories of working along with Democrat priorities.
Free Speech for People launched unsuccessful Section 3 challenges last year against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.
Cawthorn's case ended up being dismissed after he lost in the primary election, and a judge ruled in the Greene case that her actions didn't constitute claims that she had engaged in an "insurrection" on Jan. 6.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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