Colorado Judge Brands Trump as an Insurrectionist, Yet Allows 2024 Ballot Presence

In a striking move, a Colorado judge has officially labeled former President Donald Trump’s actions during the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack as “engagement in insurrection.” Despite this landmark ruling, a legal technicality still permits Trump to appear on Colorado’s 2024 presidential ballot, a decision that has left many activists and legal experts hopeful for a reversal on appeal.

Judge Sarah Wallace’s extensive 102-page decision unambiguously states that Trump’s incendiary speech near the White House directly incited violence. Wallace’s ruling articulates that Trump’s repeated calls to ‘fight’ and ‘fight like hell,’ coupled with his urging to march to the Capitol, were calls to arms in the context of his continuous inflaming rhetoric and history of endorsing political violence among his supporters.

This ruling came as a response to a lawsuit by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and two law firms representing Colorado voters. They argued that under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — the insurrection clause enacted post-Civil War — Trump is constitutionally ineligible to hold the office of the president due to his active participation in the insurrection.

However, Judge Wallace found that Trump, being the sitting president during the Capitol attack, was not technically an “officer of the United States,” a detail that exempts him from the insurrection clause. Legal analysts have highlighted this interpretation as a potential point of contention and a loophole that might be challenged on appeal.

Ryan Goodman, former U.S. Defense Department special counsel, expressed on social media that Trump’s legal battles are far from over and that this decision shouldn’t bring him comfort. Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, reaffirmed this sentiment, stating that the organization intends to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. This recent development in Colorado follows similar rulings in Michigan and Minnesota, where judges have hesitated to address Trump’s conduct directly, with debates centering on whether only Congress can determine a presidential candidate’s constitutional qualifications.

With Trump leading in the GOP presidential primary race, this ruling adds another layer to the complex legal and political challenges he faces. As Ron Fein, legal director at the advocacy group Free Speech for People, observed, the decision doesn’t put an end to the question of Trump’s disqualification for engaging in insurrection against the U.S. Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision on the appeal could potentially set a precedent impacting Trump’s eligibility in future political endeavors, making this a closely watched case as the 2024 election cycle heats up.