The Prospect of Trump’s 2024 Candidacy and the Constitutional Definition of ‘Insurrection’

by Sophia Chen
Trump 2024 eligibility

The possibility of Donald Trump seeking reelection in the 2024 Presidential race is entangled with legal interpretations of ‘insurrection’ following his involvement in the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Various liberal organizations have initiated legal actions in states such as Colorado and Minnesota to prevent Trump from appearing on electoral ballots, invoking a seldom-referenced section of the Constitution that disqualifies individuals from office if they have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution but then partake in an insurrection against it. This clause from the 14th Amendment has seen scant application since its post-Civil War inception.

The absence of substantial case law to clarify its language, particularly the definition of ‘insurrection,’ compounds the issue. Although the label ‘insurrection’ has been contested since the immediate aftermath of the January 6 event, the ongoing legal discourse seeks a historical understanding of the term as perceived by the framers of the amendment in 1868.

Derek Muller, a law professor at Notre Dame, has been attentively tracking the litigation and notes that while public debate has frequently employed the term ‘insurrection’ in a colloquial sense, the legal argument hinges on a concrete definition of the constitutional term.

The attempt to disqualify Trump from future ballots faces several legal hurdles, including the limited jurisdiction of state courts and the application of the 14th Amendment’s Section Three to a sitting president. Nonetheless, none has captured attention as the contention over classifying the January 6 incident as an insurrection.

During a Minnesota Supreme Court session, the authority of states to remove Trump from ballots was met with skepticism, partly due to uncertainties surrounding the act of insurrection.

Justice Gordon Moore inquired of attorneys from both sides their interpretation of what constitutes engagement in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution.

Nicholas Nelson, representing Trump, characterized insurrection as organized violence with an aim to secede from or overthrow the U.S. government, a criterion he believes has not been met in recent decades.

Conversely, Ronald Fein, representing the petitioners with Free Speech For People, described insurrection as a concerted effort to disrupt the execution of a constitutional function—a description he aligned with Trump’s actions surrounding the January Capitol breach, which aimed to interrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Natalie Hudson echoed the subjectivity of defining ‘insurrection’ after hearing both sides.

Gerard Magliocca, a law professor from Indiana University, presented his research into Section Three in a Denver court, analyzing historical definitions of insurrection and legislative interpretations from the period, including various acts by Congress and opinions by the U.S. attorney general in the late 1860s regarding former Confederates.

Critics point out that none of the numerous federal charges related to January 6 include insurrection, though some defendants have been convicted of seditious conspiracy. Magliocca emphasized that the language of Section Three does not necessitate a prior criminal conviction for disqualification from office.

In Colorado, constitutional expert Robert Delahunty highlighted inconsistencies in historical definitions of insurrection and emphasized the specific need to understand the phrase ‘insurrection against the U.S. Constitution.’

In the legal fray, even Trump’s defense in his impeachment trial acknowledged the Capitol attack as an insurrection, a fact highlighted by lawyers seeking Trump’s disqualification in Colorado.

The 14th Amendment has been referenced in recent times following the Capitol attack, with groups like Free Speech For People and Citizens for Reforming Ethics in Washington (CREW) attempting to invoke it against political figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Green and former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, with varying success.

During Colorado’s legal proceedings, Trump’s defense attempted to portray the January 6 crowd as largely peaceful, with Tom Bjorklund of the Colorado Republican Party denying the event constituted an insurrection and attributing the violence to other groups, despite evidence to the contrary.

This complex legal landscape highlights the intricate connection between historical interpretation and contemporary political legalities as the United States grapples with the aftermath of January 6 and its implications for future elections.

Reported by Fernando from St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Big Big News maintains independent journalistic integrity while receiving support from private foundations to enrich its coverage on elections and democratic processes. Further information about the initiative can be accessed on the AP’s website, with the assurance that the AP maintains sole responsibility for the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Trump 2024 eligibility

Can Donald Trump legally run for president again in 2024?

The legality of Donald Trump’s potential candidacy in the 2024 Presidential Election hinges on the constitutional interpretation of his involvement in the events of January 6, 2021. Should his actions be legally defined as ‘insurrection’, it could disqualify him under the 14th Amendment, which bars individuals from holding office if they have engaged in insurrection after swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution.

What does the term ‘insurrection’ mean in the context of the 14th Amendment?

The term ‘insurrection’ in the context of the 14th Amendment refers to an act of violent uprising against an authority or government. However, its specific legal definition is subject to interpretation and has been the focal point of recent court debates regarding the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack and Trump’s involvement.

Has the 14th Amendment been used to disqualify individuals from holding office before?

Yes, the 14th Amendment has been invoked to disqualify individuals from office but very rarely since its inception after the Civil War. Its use in modern times has been minimal, with recent attempts to apply it to political figures following the January 6 Capitol attack.

What is Section Three of the 14th Amendment?

Section Three of the 14th Amendment is a clause that prohibits anyone who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, after having taken an oath to support the Constitution, from holding any office, civil or military, under the United States or any state.

Have any legal experts offered definitions of ‘insurrection’?

Yes, legal experts have provided various definitions during court proceedings, ranging from organized warfare against the government to any concerted effort to disrupt constitutional functions. These definitions have significant implications for determining the applicability of Section Three of the 14th Amendment to Trump’s potential candidacy.

More about Trump 2024 eligibility

  • 14th Amendment and insurrection
  • Legal debates on insurrection post-January 6
  • Trump’s eligibility for the 2024 election
  • Historical usage of the 14th Amendment
  • Definitions of insurrection by legal experts

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Tom Jeferson November 4, 2023 - 4:20 am

not sure if all this legal talk gonna stop Trump, supporters seem to rally no matter what courts say

Sally_M November 4, 2023 - 11:47 am

interesting piece but i think we need to dive deeper into history to really understand the framers intent with the 14th Amendment

GarySmith1972 November 4, 2023 - 4:01 pm

just read the article, does anyone else think that the term ‘insurrection’ is too vague for such important matters?

Anna_K November 4, 2023 - 5:21 pm

kinda wild how words from 150 years ago are deciding elections today, language is a tricky thing


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