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Donald Trump has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a decision to ban him from Colorado’s presidential primary ballot, setting the stage for the nation’s highest court to decide whether states can stop him from seeking higher office for his role in the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
The Colorado supreme court ruled last month to disqualify Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot, saying he was not fit to be president under the 14th amendment to the US constitution, which prohibits individuals who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion from holding office. The court’s decision was put on hold until January 4 to allow time for an appeal.
In a petition filed to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers argued that the Colorado ruling “is not and cannot be correct”, noting that if it were allowed to stand, it would mark the first time in US history that the “judiciary had prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate”.
Trump’s lawyers claimed in their petition to the US Supreme Court that the Colorado judges had “misinterpreted and misapplied the text” of the constitution, and said Congress, not state courts, should decide who is eligible to serve as president. They argued the former president did not “engage in an insurrection” and “never told his supporters to enter the Capitol”.
The petition asks the nine-member US Supreme Court, which includes three justices appointed by Trump, to consider a major decision that stands to shape the 2024 presidential race.
The US’s highest court will probably separately consider in the coming months the question of whether Trump is “absolutely immune” from federal prosecution for crimes allegedly committed while he was in the White House, as he fights multiple criminal cases while campaigning for the presidency.
The US Department of Justice tried to fast-track a decision over whether that argument was valid, but the Supreme Court rejected the request just before Christmas, sending the matter to an intermediate appeals court first — though the higher court will almost certainly be asked to consider the question again. The appeals court is set to hear arguments in that case next week.
Wednesday’s petition came just one day after Trump appealed against a separate move by Maine’s secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, to remove him from the presidential primary ballot in that state. Trump asked a court in Maine to reverse that decision, arguing that Bellows was a “biased decision maker”.
Bellows has also said that Trump is not qualified to be president under section three of the 14th amendment given his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
However, courts in a handful of other states — including Michigan and Minnesota — have rejected similar lawsuits seeking to disqualify Trump from seeking the presidency.
Trump has refused to accept the results of the 2020 ballot, which he lost to Joe Biden, and argued that the contest had been “rigged” against him. On January 6 2021, he encouraged mobs of his supporters who descended on the national mall and later marched to the US Capitol, where they stormed the legislature and tried to interrupt the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
He remains the undisputed frontrunner in a shrinking field of Republican candidates vying for the party’s nomination for president ahead of this year’s general election in November. The nominating process will kick off in less than two weeks, with the Iowa caucuses on January 15.
Trump’s popularity with Republican voters has only been bolstered by his mounting legal woes, which include 91 criminal charges spread across four separate cases. Trump enjoys the support of half of Republican voters in Iowa, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight polling average, followed by Florida governor Ron DeSantis at 18.4 per cent and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley at 15.7 per cent.
Trump and his allies have alleged that Biden, the incumbent president, and fellow Democrats are engaged in “election interference” to try and keep him off the ballot.
Steven Cheung, Trump’s campaign spokesperson, said in a statement on Wednesday that “crooked Joe Biden’s comrades” were “doing all they can to disenfranchise all American voters by attempting to remove President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election, from the primary ballot”.
“We urge a clear, summary rejection of the Colorado Supreme Court’s wrongful ruling and the execution of a free and fair election this November,” he added.