Maine Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows on Thursday barred former U.S. President Trump from the Republican 2024 primary ballot, determining that “he is not qualified to hold the office of the president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment” to the country’s Constitution.
Despite several ongoing criminal cases, Trump is currently the Republican front-runner for next year’s presidential contest, in which Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020, is seeking reelection.
The decision in Maine comes just weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and amid multiple legal battles aiming to boot Trump from ballots for inciting the January 6, 2021 insurrection — including in Colorado, where the state Supreme Court disqualified him last week, a decision that could soon be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to which he appointed three justices.
Bellows’ move — which will ultimately be decided in the courts — came in response to three challenges filed to Trump’s nomination, two based on the 14th Amendment and one citing the 22nd Amendment. The former bars anyone who has taken an oath to the Constitution and then engaged in insurrection from holding office again, while the latter sets a two-term limit for presidents.
The Maine official said Thursday that “there appears to be no dispute between any of the parties that President Biden prevailed over Mr. Trump. Therefore, given Mr. Trump has only won a single election for president, he is not barred from being elected to the same office again under the 22nd Amendment.”
However, regarding the 14th Amendment arguments, she found that “the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power.”
“I likewise conclude that Mr. Trump was aware of the likelihood for violence and at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it,” she wrote in the 34-page decision.
Bellows stressed that “Mr. Trump’s occasional requests that rioters be peaceful and support law enforcement do not immunize his actions. A brief call to obey the law does not erase conduct over the course of months, culminating in his speech on the Ellipse. The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multimonth effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match.”
“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection,” she wrote.
Citing a relevant state law, Bellows said that “the oath I swore to uphold the Constitution comes first above all, and my duty under Maine’s election laws, when presented with a Section 336 challenge, is to ensure that candidates who appear on the primary ballot are qualified for the office they seek.”
“The events of January 6, 2021 were unprecedented and tragic,” she added. “They were an attack not only upon the Capitol and government officials, but also an attack on the rule of law. The evidence here demonstrates that they occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing president. The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government, and Section 336 requires me to act in response.”
The secretary suspended the effect of her decision until the Maine Superior Court rules on any appeal, or the appeal period expires.
In a lengthy statement noting similar fights in other states, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said that “we will quickly file a legal objection in state court to prevent this atrocious decision in Maine from taking effect.”
He also took aim at Bellows, saying that “the Maine secretary of state is a former ACLU attorney, a virulent leftist, and a hyperpartisan Biden-supporting Democrat who has decided to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden.”
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said on social media that the U.S. Supreme Court “will surely have the final word.”
It takes longer to read this sentence than it does to support our work.
We don’t have much time left to raise the $15,000 needed to meet Truthout‘s basic publishing costs this month. Will you take a few seconds to donate and give us a much-needed boost?
We know you are deeply committed to the issues that matter, and you count on us to bring you trustworthy reporting and comprehensive analysis on the real issues facing our country and the world. And as a nonprofit newsroom supported by reader donations, we’re counting on you too. If you believe in the importance of an independent, free media, please make a tax-deductible donation today!