Jan. 6 Report Trump Cameos, Criminal Dismissals Could Impact 2024
On Monday, the Jan. 6 committee made history by approving a criminal referral for former President Donald Trump. After months of witness statements and evidence gathering, the committee recommended several charges. Today, the committee will release its full report on the insurgency – hundreds of pages filled with evidence, witness statements and bombshells. But it’s likely that nothing in its findings will prove more significant — or could have greater legal impact — than the committee’s finding that Trump, as a matter of law, instigated an insurrection against the authority of the US government. It should, and must, prevent those who tried to overthrow our government from serving there again. And it starts with Donald J. Trump.
It is crucial that the courts and secretaries of state simultaneously remove Trump from the presidential ballot in 2024.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment specifies that no individual who engages in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution after having sworn an oath to support it may hold federal or state office. This provision establishes a basic qualification for the presidency, which is no different from the qualifications of age, citizenship and residence.
While federal prosecutors are expected to move forward with the investigation and indictment of Trump for criminal insurrection, it is crucial that the courts and secretaries of state simultaneously remove Trump from the presidential ballot in 2024. The Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment, like all constitutional provisions, is the supreme law of the land and must be enforced by federal and state authorities. But the Constitution does not specify an application procedure, so it is up to each state to determine whether a candidate is qualified to appear on its ballots or serve in office. Many states have their own procedure for how this should work, either through the courts or through election officials. My organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and others will act to try to ensure they enforce Trump’s constitutional disqualification.
Of course, the criminal insurrection suits and the civil proceedings necessary to enforce the disqualification clause of the 14th Amendment are separate proceedings, and the outcome of one would not necessarily control the other. But because the standard of proof for a criminal conviction is so high, it’s hard to imagine that courts and other decision makers wouldn’t find enough evidence for disqualification, for which the standard of proof is lower. In fact, the committee’s determination that there was sufficient evidence to approve dismissal of the criminal insurrection charges gives me a high degree of confidence that the conditions of the disqualification clause have been met.
Thanks to the meticulous work of the select committee, there is no doubt that many of those who illegally entered the Capitol to disrupt the business of Congress did so violently and at the behest of the incumbent president. As the committee detailed during its hearings, the world watched as Trump summoned a crowd who erected a gallows and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” Police were beaten and trampled, windows smashed and barricades breached. The evidence the committee presented and laid out in its report is irrefutable: Trump engineered and encouraged efforts to use a mob to help overturn the election; he also mobilized the crowd and normalized his violent actions. The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War ended, was drafted to ensure that those who took up arms against our country — or those like Trump who inspired others — could not lead the government they tried to overthrow.
Top analysis from the January 6 committee
Now, some might say January 6 was vastly different from the Civil War, and it was – but the difference is only in scale, not intent. And just as the 14th Amendment recognizes that insurgent dangers did not stop at Appomattox, Trump’s insurgent threat did not end on Jan. 7, when Vice President Mike Pence certified President Joe Biden as a winner. In fact, Trump continues to defend his lost cause in every speech he gives and in every message he posts on social media.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is not something buried in history. In fact, it was used to disqualify someone from office for participating in the very insurgency Trump instigated. CREW recently filed the first successful lawsuit in more than 150 years removing an elected official for violating the disqualification clause. In that case, decided under New Mexico’s expedited process for removal of a disqualified office holder, not only did a New Mexico judge remove former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, but the judge also ruled that the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection and that Griffin’s participation disqualified him from ever holding office under Section 3 again. This decision was made after Griffin has recruited people to “fight” for Trump, and in spite of himself do not enter the Capitol or indulge in violence himself. If Griffin is barred from office, then surely Trump must be.
That’s why the committee’s decision to fire Trump for engaging in an insurrection is so important: Committee members concluded they had enough evidence for a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump is was engaged in a criminal insurrection.
The bipartisan members of the January 6 select committee have done their job. They investigated what happened that day, found it was an insurgency, and blamed Trump. They did so knowing that it could put them in the crosshairs of the very people who attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop the peaceful transition of power that serves as the foundation of our democratic system of government. Now it is up to others to uphold the Constitution.
Responsibility now shifts not just to prosecutors, but to courts and state officials charged with a vital duty – to protect the ballots of disqualified candidates. They must show the same vision and courage that House lawmakers have shown over the past 18 months. We will be there to remind them.