What we’re covering here

  • Happening now: The Supreme Court is hearing a landmark case about whether former President Donald Trump’s actions around the January 6, 2021, riot make him ineligible for office. The liberal justices are grilling Trump’s attorney about whether to restore the former president on the Colorado primary ballot after the state’s Supreme Court removed him over the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist” clause. Listen to live audio in the video player above.
  • What’s at stake: While Colorado is the focus, the high court’s decision could have major ramifications in other states that have pending litigation to remove Trump from their 2024 ballots. If the court rules he can be kept off the ballot before Colorado’s March 5 primary, the state has said votes for him would not count.
  • Historic case: The high court’s decision to hear the case puts the justices squarely in the middle of the 2024 election— and represents the court’s most significant involvement in a presidential race since Bush v. Gore 23 years ago.
  • Trump juggles legal challenges and campaign: This is only one of the many legal cases Trump faces as he campaigns for another term. Today’s hearing comes as Nevada hosts its GOP caucuses, which Trump is expected to win. He isn’t attending the arguments today, but is expected to speak about the case later.

Sotomayor points out state officials have been disqualified from public office under the 14th Amendment

Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out during the hearing Thursday that several state-level officials have been barred in the past from holding public office under the 14th Amendment.

“History proves a lot to me and to my colleagues,” Sotomayor said, adding that “there’s a whole lot of examples of states relying on Section 3 to disqualify insurrectionists for state offices.”

According to the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, at least eight public officials have been barred from public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment since its ratification in 1868.

Most recently, convicted January 6 rioter and Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin was removed from his elected position as a county commissioner in New Mexico for his role in the US Capitol attack.

Other individuals removed from office, according to CREW, include a state solicitor who served in the Confederate army, a senator from North Carolina who served in the Confederate army, and a Wisconsin representative who was convicted of charges under the espionage act.

Remember: The 14th Amendment says Americans who take an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “engaged in insurrection” are disqualified from holding future public office.

The amendment’s key provision, Section 3, says in part: “No person shall … hold any office … under the United States … who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

However, the Constitution does not spell out how to enforce the ban. And there is an open legal debate over how some of the terms in the vague provision should be defined. For instance, the amendment doesn’t explain what level of political violence is tantamount to “insurrection.”

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