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Supreme Court Rules Trump Eligible to Run for President in 2024 Race

The court ruled that only Congress may decide the eligibility status of federal candidates under the 14th Amendment.

Tourists look inside the chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court on February 29, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling determining that former President Donald Trump, who is running for president a third time, is eligible for the 2024 ballot in every state in the country, despite two states previously determining that he shouldn’t be able to run because he violated the insurrection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The justices made their ruling in a per curiam order of the court, which does not list who wrote the order. The ruling indicated, however, that all nine justices agreed with the outcome.

The court’s three liberal justices, plus one member of the conservative bloc, disagreed with other consequential aspects of the ruling.

The justices did not appear at the court itself to render the ruling, as they sometimes do with important cases, but rather decided beforehand to publish it online when it became official.

In a huge win for Trump, the court said that states could not determine on their own whether candidates for federal office (including the presidency) were disqualified from running under the terms of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That clause of the Constitution stipulates that no former officer who has served in federal, state or local governments — who took an oath to honor the U.S. Constitution and later engaged in insurrection — can again serve in office unless two-thirds of Congress decides they can. The section doesn’t include an enforcement mechanism, leaving unclear until today who could decide (or which entities were limited in deciding) whether a person engaged in insurrection or not, and if said persons would be disqualified from the ballot.

The court’s decision on Monday will directly impact two states — Maine and Colorado — that had determined that Trump wasn’t eligible to run in their primary nominating contests, which are set to happen on “Super Tuesday” later this week. In both states, ballots were printed with Trump’s name on them anyway, due to expectations that the former president would appeal their moves to the Supreme court, where justices would deem him eligible to run.

The court’s majority categorically said that any challenges to Trump’s eligibility had to originate from Congress, not from states themselves, although four of the justices did not agree with that idea.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the majority’s order read. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.”

The order added that it was “implausible to suppose that the Constitution affirmatively delegated to the States the authority to impose such a burden on congressional power with respect to candidates for federal office.” Noting that Congress has, in the past, disqualified candidates for federal office, the court said that that standard should continue onward.

The court suggested that it would be problematic for states to have this power.

“State enforcement of Section 3 with respect to the Presidency would raise heightened concerns,” the order explained, adding that “state-by-state resolution of the question whether Section 3 bars a particular candidate for President from serving would be quite unlikely to yield a uniform answer consistent with the basic principle that” the presidency is an office all voters across the country get to decide on.

Although they agreed with the overall outcome of the case, the liberal bloc of justices disagreed with the court’s order, which extended powers to Congress that aren’t explicitly stated in the Constitution.

“The majority announces that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation,” the three liberal jurists — Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson — wrote in their concurring judgment. “We cannot join an opinion that decides momentous and difficult issues unnecessarily, and we therefore concur only in the judgment.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another member of the conservative bloc of justices, concurred with the overall judgment but expressed concerns about the court empowering Congress and limiting states from being able to apply the constitutional standard on future federal candidates for office. Barrett wrote a separate concurring judgment from the liberal bloc of justices.

The order itself, deeming Trump eligible to run for the presidency for a third time, was largely expected, given the mood of the court during oral arguments last month, when justices from both ideological blocs raised doubts about Colorado blocking Trump from running. Notably, the justices primarily focused on whether states could enforce the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist rules, not on whether Trump himself engaged in insurrection by motivating a mob of his loyalists to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, to block his election loss to President Joe Biden from being confirmed in the Electoral College.

Beyond Trump, the order will have other consequences, including allowing individuals who participated in the January 6 attack to run for Congress, restricting states from being able to deem them disqualified.

Several legal minds on social media reacted to the ruling, with some noting that it was inconsistent with other qualification standards in the Constitution for the office of the presidency.

“You know that whole requirement in Section 1, Article II of the Constitution, that the president has to be a natural born citizen? Guess what? Absent Congressional action, that provision is meaningless,” legal commentator Bradley Moss suggested on X.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the nonprofit government watchdog organization that helped bring the lawsuit against Trump forward on behalf of voters in Colorado, also condemned the court’s ruling.

“Crucially, the Court did *not* exonerate Trump of insurrection,” CREW said. “They had the chance to do so and chose not to.”

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