By Robert Reich
I recently suggested we welcome Donald Trump’s “final battle” against being held criminally liable for attempting a coup against the United States, because it will clarify the choice between democracy and authoritarianism.
Today I want to talk about a different issue. It is separate from, but often confused with, Trump’s possible criminal liability. Regardless of the outcome of that prosecution, the U.S. Constitution bars Trump from running for president again.
Someone who has tried to overthrow the U.S. government cannot be president.
The Constitution sets out four criteria that must be met in order for someone to be president. As directed by the Constitution, a presidential candidate: (1) must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, (2) must be a resident for 14 years, (3) must be 35 years of age or older, and (4) must not, after having sworn an oath to support the Constitution, have engaged in insurrection against the United States.
Trump meets the first three criteria. He does not meet the fourth.
Why? Because Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution clearly states:
No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, 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.
This requirement was put in place after the Civil War to ensure that people elected to public office could be trusted to uphold the Constitution.
It has already been applied by the courts to remove from public office “Cowboys for Trump” co-founder and former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin in New Mexico. Griffin was found guilty of a misdemeanor for entering the Capitol grounds during the January 6 insurrection, though he did not go inside the building. The subsequent ruling removing him from office as a result was upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
If the 14th Amendment applies to a county commissioner who participated in January 6, it should apply to Donald Trump — the person who, when all his other attempts to stay in power after losing the election failed, directed an armed mob to march on the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of electors.
At his inauguration in January 2017, Trump took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. Four years later, he violated that oath with his efforts to remain in office after losing reelection. The violent insurrection was the culmination of a months-long project to try to overturn the results of a free and fair election.
As we all recall, after Trump failed in over 60 court cases, he tried to intimidate state officials into reversing the election by “finding” votes that did not exist. He recruited “alternative” slates of electors to cast unauthorized votes for him in the Electoral College.
And then, when none of his other schemes succeeded, he invited extremists to the Capitol on January 6 to try to prevent the formal counting of electoral votes. Having been informed that members of the crowd carried deadly weapons, he sent them to the Capitol building, which they invaded, threatening to find and assassinate Vice President Mike Pence and other lawmakers.
This is all a matter of public record — as is the fact that Trump thereafter did nothing but watch the physical violence he had unleashed unfold on television. According to sworn testimony by his closest aides, Trump refused to call in the National Guard or any other support for the Capitol police, who were literally fighting for their lives to protect the lives of those within the building.
While members of his inner circle were begging Trump to call off the mob, he incited further violence by tweeting criticism of his own vice president, literally stoking the cries of “Hang Mike Pence!”
Trump’s incitement of violence followed by his failure to act to stop it led to the deaths of multiple people and significant injuries to hundreds.
It was an insurrection. It was violent. It was a clear violation of Trump’s oath of office. It happened in plain sight.
There is no need to await the outcome of Trump’s pending criminal prosecution in connection with January 6 to bar him from running for president. He is disqualified from serving as an elected official in the United States ever again.
Secretaries of state and other state election officials should not allow Trump on the ballot in their states. If you agree, please consider signing the petition to tell election officials to keep Trump off the ballot now. (Just click on this link.)
No one is above the law, including Donald Trump.