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Watchdog Lays Out Case for Why Trump Can’t Legally Run for President Again

“Donald Trump is neither above the law, nor is he above democracy,” the organization says in its report.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Turning Point Action USA conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 15, 2023.

A government watchdog has released a report outlining why former President Donald Trump should be barred from running for president — or any other governmental office — ever again.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) makes the case for denying Trump the ability to serve once more based not on the two indictments against him (and a possible third or fourth that could come about any day now), but rather on his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building, as well as his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — actions that the watchdog says are in violation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That section, authored in the wake of the Civil War, forbids individuals from holding office again if they’ve previously taken an oath to defend the Constitution and, after doing so, “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” If deemed an insurrectionist under that clause, only a two-thirds vote from Congress can restore a person’s ability to run for or hold office once more.

“On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump took the oath of office, swearing to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,'” CREW wrote on its website in a preview of its nearly 90-page report. “Almost four years to the day after taking that oath, on January 6, 2021, Trump caused a violent insurrection that nearly overthrew an election and shattered our democracy.”

The attack on the Capitol and other efforts by Trump and his loyalists to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which was won by President Joe Biden, were “the culmination of a multi-part scheme by Trump and his allies to use lies, intimidation, coercion and ultimately violence to keep Trump in office,” the watchdog went on

“Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the threat that the Fourteenth Amendment’s framers sought to protect American democracy against when they barred constitutional oath-breakers from office,” CREW continued.

A conviction of Trump is not needed to forbid him from running for office, CREW noted, citing cases from over 150 years ago as well as a recent case involving a Trump loyalist who participated in the Capitol attack. Instead, a civil lawsuit is enough to deem a person an insurrectionist: “The 14th Amendment does not require a criminal conviction for disqualification,” CREW explained.

Within the report, CREW lays out the case for why Trump is an insurrectionist, citing examples beyond the January 6 attack.

“Significant evidence demonstrates that Trump voluntarily aided the January 6th insurrection through numerous overt acts and words in furtherance of the insurrection,” including “weeks” of him “spread[ing] theories of a ‘stolen’ and rigged’ election, pressuring state election administration officials, state and federal lawmakers and Vice President Pence to overturn the election results and weaponizing his Justice Department to do the same,” CREW states.

The watchdog also explains how Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol attack constitutes a violation of the 14th Amendment:

When his extra-legal attempts to overturn the election failed, he resorted to inciting violence. Trump assembled and later sent the mob to stop, by force, Congress and the Vice President from fulfilling their constitutional obligations under the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act to certify the election results of the 2020 presidential election. And the mob did just that.

“President Trump violated his constitutional duties on January 6th…[by] fail[ing] to act for 187 minutes, watching the attack unfold on television,” CREW adds.

Labeling someone an insurrectionist and claiming they shouldn’t be able to hold office isn’t a charge that should be taken lightly, CREW says in its report. But “the risk of a repeat or escalation of January 6th poses such an existential threat to our democracy that it demands the use of all available legal tools to prevent it,” the organization goes on.

“Donald Trump is neither above the law, nor is he above democracy,” CREW concludes. “Overwhelming evidence establishes that President Trump was the central cause of and a participant in the insurrection. Because of that, Trump is disqualified from holding any public office, including the Office of the President, under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

CREW has stated in the past that this sort of action — holding Trump accountable by having a court or courts deem him an insurrectionist in violation of constitutional terms — is needed to prevent him from running for office again, as indictment charges against him, even guilty convictions, would not be enough to prevent him from doing so. Indeed, a person may run for office and even win the presidency from prison, as the Constitution does not forbid such an action.

“Donald Trump has been indicted twice. That doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from serving as president, but the Constitution’s 14th Amendment does,” CREW said in a tweet earlier in July.

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