DC ethics watchdog files first major suit to block Trump from appearing on 2024 ballot

A nonprofit well known as an ethics watchdog in Washington DC has filed what could be the first of many direct efforts to block Donald Trump from serving as president or appearing on the 2024 ballot.

The suit, filed on Wednesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), seeks to block Colorado’s elections agency from putting Mr Trump’s name on the ballot in that state. Filed on behalf of six voters in Colorado, the case could be the first part of a nightmare scenario for Republicans in 2024.

Under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, persons who took an oath of office and later supported or gave “aid” or “comfort” to an insurrection or rebellion against the federal government are banned from holding office.

“If the very fabric of our democracy is to hold, we must ensure that the Constitution is enforced and the same people who attacked our democratic system not be put in charge of it,” CREW president Noah Bookbinder said in a press release.

He added: “We aren’t bringing this case to make a point, we’re bringing it because it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future. While it is unprecedented to bring this type of case against a former president, January 6th was an unprecedented attack that is exactly the kind of event the framers of the 14th Amendment wanted to build protections in case of. You don’t break the glass unless there’s an emergency.”

CREW’s involvement in the effort is significant. A previous lawsuit seeking the same outcome in Florida was tossed out by a judge, but only because the plaintiffs were ruled to lack standing to bring the case. CREW’s efforts along these lines have seen no such failure; the group previously sued (successfully) to stop a New Mexico county commissioner from continuing to serve after his participation in the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

If CREW’s suit succeeds in Colorado, the effects could be monumental. While Mr Trump has little chance of winning the Centennial State, which hasn’t voted for a Republican president since 2004, the success of a lawsuit there would likely herald more successes in states that Mr Trump needs to win should he hope to defeat Joe Biden in the Electoral College.

The local effect of such a suit’s success cannot be understated, either. Mr Trump’s absence from the ballot could theoretically remove a factor motivating many Republican Coloradans to go vote, leading to an advantage for Democrats in statewide races in the fall.

Mr Trump in recent days has seethed openly over media coverage of the issue of invoking the 14th Amendment to block him from running. The issue had grabbed headlines thanks to a media tour launched by two leaders of the American legal field, Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe and former judge J Michael Luttig, in support of blocking Mr Trump from running for office via the Constitution’s so-called disqualification clause.

In numerous Truth Social postings, he has amplified pundits and legal theorists who have argued against the matter’s legality.

The twice-impeached ex-president faces a wide range of legal challenges in addition to CREW’s announced offensive.

He is currently charged with 91 felony counts across four jurisdictions, including a RICO charge in Georgia that carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence. The cases range from his efforts to block Joe Biden from taking office after the latter’s 2020 election victory to a hush-money scheme with a porn star dating back to 2016.