Various constitutional lawyers have been weighing in lately on whether former president Donald Trump and others who participated in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election are disqualified from holding office under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The third section of that amendment, ratified in 1868, reads:
WOW WOW WOW! This is what I have been waiting to hear and you explain it perfectly in the context of a living history. Bravo, once again, Dr Richardson. Will it make the front pages of the WP and NYT.? Do the editors read your column? Praying they do.
Are Republicans obliged to obey the Constitution? They don't seem to think so. We will see.
I have been waiting for this 14th Amendment argument to gain traction, and keep Trump and his loyal Senators and Congressional Representatives (eg, Jim Jordan) off the ballot in 2024. I remain skeptical, but even if only a few states can enforce these provisions, that would be most welcome, establishing the meaning of Section 3 once and for all. -- And if some jurisdiction (even a blue state could do this) does comply with the obvious meaning of Section 3, this will undoubtedly be challenged and rise to the Supreme Court. How will the originalists on the court deal with this??
'Trials Are About Facts. That's Bad For Trump. '(Time) excerpts
'The mournful lesson of the GOP primaries in 2016 was summed up by the hashtag “LOL, nothing matters.” It captured the vertiginous sense among traditional Republicans that the political world had been loosed from its moorings; that damning facts no longer had purchase with voters because a critical mass of Americans had, for whatever reason, chosen to trust the least honest man in America.'
'The series of indictments against Donald Trump may mark a turning point.'
'From day one, when the president’s press secretary lied to reporters about Trump’s inaugural crowd size, the Trump presidency amounted to a systematic assault on truth. Though at times almost amusing—as in “Sharpiegate” when the commander-in-chief displayed a doctored weather map to support his erroneous claim about a hurricane’s path—most of Trump’s lies were no laughing matter. They served as an acid eating away at the already frayed bonds of affection among Americans.'
'The chaotic and dishonest federal response to COVID-19 response was a steep price Americans paid for Trump’s assault on truth. But it may not have been the most consequential. The lies did even more damage to social trust. The deluge of deceit undermined faith in every institution that Trump suspected might thwart him—the press, the intelligence services, the courts, government employees, public health authorities, the military, and finally, the electoral system.'
'Self-styled Trump grand strategist Steve Bannon has implied that the lying is strategic; that “flooding the zone with s—” is part of a plan, similar to that employed by Vladimir Putin, to confuse the public to the point where they give up attempting to separate truth from falsehood. In the long eight years that Trump has dominated our national life, he has succeeded in transforming a third of the GOP into a hermetically sealed cult and persuading a fair share of the remainder to treat negative information about him as politically-motivated dirt (even if also possibly true).'
'Trump has not achieved this alone. Elected Republicans, party functionaries, and the organs of right wing influence have played a large (if sometimes expensive) role in this, serving as Trump’s phalanx of falsehood. The gaslighting has demoralized those Republicans who remain immune, to say nothing of independents and Democrats.'
'Which brings us to the indictments. The one realm of American life that has shown itself impervious to Trump’s assault on truth is the courts. The tactics of lying, whataboutism, distraction, and insults may succeed on NewsMax or in the pages of the Federalist. They don’t work as well in front of a judge. As Stefanos Bibas, a Trump-appointed judge on the Third Circuit, ruled after rejecting the Trump campaign’s effort to disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvania’s voters: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
“Specific allegations and proof.” That is unfamiliar territory for Trump. Courts are not perfect truth detectors, but they are a helluva lot better at separating fact from fiction than talk radio, social media, or cable TV. Just ask E. Jean Carroll or the plaintiffs in the Trump University case.'
'Trials have a unique power to rivet attention. A trial of a former president will be an unprecedented national moment with the capacity – perhaps the unique capacity – to penetrate America’s information silos. The upcoming trials in Florida for willful retention of classified documents and in DC for a conspiracy to disenfranchise the American people probably will not budge the Trump faithful. But the segments of the Republican party that are not in Trump’s thrall may yet be persuadable. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who get most of their information from right-leaning sources may have only the haziest notion of what Trump is accused of. They will have forgotten that all of the chief witnesses against Trump at the January 6 congressional hearings and those likely to testify in upcoming trials are fellow Republicans and former Trump associates. They will hear from Republicans, like former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who voted for Trump twice but could not in conscience steal the election for him, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who would not lie to subvert the 2020 election outcome.'
'Courtrooms don’t run like TV studios. Irrelevant testimony is not permitted. Changing the subject won’t fly. Cross examination reveals contradictions. Failure to answer a question will get a rebuke from the judge. Lying under oath is a crime. So is witness tampering. Trump will not have the scope, so often exploited in the past, to create diversions from this drama. It will hold us and him in its grip. With any luck, some Republicans will get their first inkling of the avalanche of lies Trump has told.'
'And just maybe, some Republicans will be a bit inspired by the patriotism and integrity of Americans like Rusty Bowers, who withstood pressure from Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and Trump to falsify Arizona’s electoral votes. “I took an oath,” he explained simply. And in his diary he noted: “I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
‘Republicans like Bowers, Raffensperger, and Pence saved America from chaos in January 2021. Perhaps they can do the same for 2024.’ (TIME: By Mona Charen, August 14, 2023) See link to article below.
There seem to be several members of Congress who should also be ineligible to hold office as senators or representatives because of their roles in attempting to keep Trump** in office. I, for one, look forward to hearing that, indeed, they may no longer serve in our government. (Fingers crossed!)
It does seem mad that Trump, after all his posturing and anti-democratic rhetoric, should be allowed to hold Office ever again.
Thank you Heather. Some State Legislatures and Congress would look very different without fringe extremists and incompetents looking to destroy the Federal government from the inside. Who can forget Grover Norquist’s “I want a government so small I can drown it in a bathtub?”
The well-funded GOP march to the extreme concentration of wealth and minority control plays out in states where wealthy benefactors can readily drop in a million dollars and decimate any societal aspirations of equity, democracy, and justice. It is also an important reminder that meaningful democracy and extreme wealth inequality cannot co-exist.
Accountability Professor ⭐ is necessary and important, for all transgressors.
Fascinating. Of course in deciding what parts of the Constitution to follow, Republicans pick and choose based on their self-interest in the moment, despite the oath they take when sworn in. In other words, they respect the Constitution like they respect the rule of law.
This should also apply to the traitors sitting in Congress. BTW, imagining history this way (I mean, no sitting Congress for 8-9 months 😳) information distributed by newspapers, travel restricted to horse, really emphasizes the huge differences between then and now ...
To those who argue the 3rd section of the 14th Amendment applies only to Civil War era rebels and seditionists; let us remind them that many Confederate flags were present in various forms during the Jan. 6 assault on the capital, thereby, to my mind, extending the Civil War era into today and rendering their argument moot.
In other words, the Civil War continues to this day and the 14th Amendment, all of it, absolutely applies to those who participated in and encouraged, aided, and abetted those who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Four indictments may eventually lead to one jail cell, but it's a powerful shame that the Senate did not use the power it had on two occasions to mete out the justice most needed, which was to prevent the would-be emperor from ever holding high office again. As much as I would like to see the former president in a striped suit, the nations security depends far more on the assurance that he and his ilk never reach that office again. He's had ample time for the bad seed he has sewn to sprout and take root all over the country, making it far more difficult and dangerous to put down the white supremacist/fascist movement than had he been impeached the first time.
Given the state of Congress today, I, sadly, cannot imagine Republicans voting against the former president under ANY circumstance. If I am misinterpreting how this works, I would be absolutely delighted to be wrong.
Here's the link to The Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/08/donald-trump-constitutionally-prohibited-presidency/675048/
I believe the authors are absolutely right, and that this clause of the Constitution bars DJT from running for office for the rest of his life. Ditto any other politician who committed "insurrection, rebellion, or gave aid and comfort" to those who did.
They argue that no conviction or even criminal charges are necessary for the prohibition to be in force--it's automatic. How would it be applied in practice? The authors say that every secretary of state or state election official must approve or reject any candidate for the ballot. The first one that rejects DJT will surely be sued by DJT, which will send the test case up the ladder to the Supreme Court. Its ruling will be swift and decisive. No way of knowing which way the Supremes will jump, but my guess is they'll uphold the ban.
Those who believe keeping DJT off the ballot will spark the Second Civil War? First, that's not worth considering. He needs to be kept off no matter what the backlash. Second and more important, there will be no Second Civil War over anything he does or doesn't do. There may be pockets of riots or violence in parts of the country, but for the most part, MAGAs will steam and shout, then they will move on as DJT joins the dustbin of history.
His sell-by date is expiring fast, even MAGAs know it, and they will not risk being shot and/or imprisoned to save his bacon on a second term.
I fully agree with the article, & would add that enforcing this would likely trigger the 2nd civil war; especially with "Proud Boys" escaping before sentencing. If it wasn't for the fact that the world really is about to become uninhabitable due to Climate change, this would worry me even more than it does. We are so screwed.............
Dr. Richardson, Thank you for explaining the fourteenth amendment from an historical perspective. I have never seen the word “beavering” used previously. Your use of it was perfect in the context of your description. The word caused me a fond memory of years living next to beavers. They are wonderful animals. They mate for life and work to support their families and improve their supporting. We lived on a small ten acre pond with a few mountain steams feeding the pond and a man made dam creating the pond depth and a spillway and stream providing the outlet for the pond. We watched our beaver neighbors constantly damming the incoming streams, and we spent a lot of time undoing their attempts to dam the spillway and the outflow stream. From our bedroom window, we could watch an older large beaver swim up the outflow stream each twilight evening, climb out of the stream, walk up the bank and over the dam and slip into the pond. He would work all night trimming saplings and brush from the banks surrounding the pond and place those sticks and branches in front of the dam outflow spillway. Then, at sunrise, we’d watch him climb out of the pond, walk over the dam, slip back into the outflow stream and swim down stream to his hut home to rest so he could return to work in the evening and begin his assignment to dam the pond spillway again. That old beaver and I spent more than fifteen years working to undo each other’s work. The word “beavering” perfectly describes that old guy’s behavior. He was relentless. If I couldn’t keep up and undo he work to raise the level of our pond, we had to employ others to help us keep the spillway clear of his plans to clog it up. Eventually, he stopped coming to work each night and a new pond appeared and expanded along the outflow stream filling the low land down stream. When a trapper knocked on our front door one day and asked permission to set his beaver traps in our pond and streams, we told him that we couldn’t give him that permission. The beavers were our neighbors, and they were doing what they do, and we did not agree with the term many locals used to define them as “nuisance beavers”. They were simply beavering. What a great word that I had never heard until I read your essay.