On Thursday, the state of Maine joined Colorado in barring Donald Trump from the Republican primary ballot over his role in the January 6 insurrection. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows issued a written decision saying the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment makes the former president ineligible to run for public office again. These cases are “about defending our republic,” says constitutional attorney John Bonifaz, who previews upcoming cases in Oregon and Trump’s ballot eligibility being decided by the Supreme Court. “This is a matter of critical importance for the state and for the nation.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
On Thursday, the state of Maine joined Colorado in barring Donald Trump from the Republican primary ballot over his role in the January 6th insurrection. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows issued a written decision saying the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment makes the former president ineligible to run for public office again.
Trump’s campaign has vowed to appeal the ruling. A campaign spokesperson described the Bellows decision as a, quote, “hostile assault on American democracy,” unquote.
The U.S. Supreme Court will likely have the final say on Trump’s ballot eligibility. Last week, Colorado’s Supreme Court barred Trump from Colorado’s primary ballot, but Michigan’s Supreme Court has ruled that he can stay on the Michigan ballot.
Meanwhile, just last night, California’s secretary of state declined to remove Donald Trump from the presidential primary ballot despite a call for her to do so from the state’s lieutenant governor. California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom had opposed the move, saying, quote, “We defeat candidates at the polls.”
For more, we’re joined by John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People, which has filed legal challenges to Trump’s eligibility to appear on the ballot in a number of states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Oregon.
Can you respond to what’s happened in Maine? And then talk, John, about those who are opposed to this, Republican and Democratic alike, who say this should be decided by the people at polls, not by courts, whether Donald Trump can run for president again.
JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. Thank you, Amy, for having me.
This is a highly significant decision that the Maine secretary of state has issued, barring Donald Trump from the ballot in the state of Maine because he is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That critical constitutional provision makes clear that anyone who takes an oath of office and then engages in insurrection is forever barred from public office again. Secretary Bellows had a duty to enforce the mandate of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment against Donald Trump, and she carried out that duty. And we thank her for that. And secretaries of state all across the country must now follow her courage and carry out their duty to bar Donald Trump from their state ballots. And the Colorado Supreme Court, as well, had a duty to follow the Constitution, and they did.
For those who say that this needs to be decided at the ballot box, that is ignoring the very purpose of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. We have in our Constitution basic qualifications for serving as president of the United States. You have to be 35 years of age by the time of the inauguration. You have to be a natural-born citizen. And you have to have not taken an oath of office and then engaged in insurrection. These are qualifications for serving in the office of president. And if we are going to ignore this critical constitutional provision, we do it with the risk of setting a dangerous precedent, going forward, that elected officials can now incite an insurrection, mobilize and facilitate an insurrection, threatening our republic, and then move on to serve in public office again. It is contrary to what the framers of the 14 Amendment intended, and it’s exactly why we will be continuing to file challenges to Donald Trump’s eligibility in other key states.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about where Article 3 of the 14th Amendment came from. Talk about its roots in the Confederacy.
JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. This critical provision of the 14th Amendment was, of course, part of that amendment enacted after the Civil War, after the first insurrection in our nation’s history. And it was designed to address ex-Confederates in positions of power, or who sought to attain positions of power, who had previously taken an oath to defend the Constitution. And the framers of the 14th Amendment were clear that if you took that prior oath to defend the Constitution and then you engaged in leading the first insurrection in our nation, the Civil War, then you are barred from holding public office again.
These ex-Confederates who had taken that oath and then engaged in the insurrection were seen as threats to the republic. But it’s important to note that the framers debated and decided that the 14th Amendment, Section 3 would not solely apply to the ex-Confederates. It would apply to any future insurrection. They were prospective in their relief, as well. They recognized that there needed to be this safeguard to our democracy.
So, for people who say this is anti-democratic, small “D,” they’re getting it totally wrong. This is about defending our democracy, defending our Constitution. You cannot allow people who take that oath of office to defend the Constitution and then turn around and incite an insurrection, as Donald Trump did, and then say they’re going to serve in public office again, especially not the highest office of the land. That’s what’s at stake here. It’s about defending our republic.
AMY GOODMAN: What states might do this next? In The New York Times, a decision “expected soon in Oregon, where the same group that filed the Michigan lawsuit” — your group, John — “Free Speech for People, is seeking to have the State Supreme Court remove [Donald] Trump from [that presidential] primary ballot.” And what about this going to the U.S. Supreme Court? What do you expect from this?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, first, on Oregon —
AMY GOODMAN: Where Donald Trump has appointed three of the court justices.
JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. Well, first, on Oregon, we represent a diverse group of voters challenging Donald Trump’s eligibility to serve on the presidential primary and general election ballot there. We filed what’s known as a mandamus action before the state Supreme Court, meaning that we want the Oregon Supreme Court to take it up immediately. And importantly, the secretary of state of Oregon, in her filings before the state Supreme Court, agreed that the matter should be taken up immediately by the state Supreme Court. This is a matter of critical importance for the state and for the nation. So we’re waiting on the state Supreme Court to take the next action with respect to those filings, and we expect that to happen soon.
As far as the U.S. Supreme Court, people do highlight that three of those appointees were Donald Trump appointees. But it’s worth noting that after the 2020 election, as we know, Donald Trump filed more than 60 court cases all across the country trying to overturn the 2020 election based on the “big lie,” the lie that there was massive fraud in the 2020 election, with no evidence whatsoever. He lost every single one of those cases. And every time he tried to get one of those cases to the Supreme Court, he lost that, as well. The Supreme Court never agreed with his claims at all, and they never even agreed to take any of his cases. So, it is not the —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds, John.
JOHN BONIFAZ: I would just say that we have to see what the Supreme Court will do, but they ought to file a mandate of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and the Constitution.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People.
And that does it for our show. A huge congratulations to our producer John Hamilton and his wonderful wife Iara on the birth of their son this morning, William Aderne Hamilton! And congratulations to Jasmine, his sister, as well!
On Monday, New Year’s Day, we’ll bring you a special on Julian Assange, the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder. The High Court of Justice in London will hear what may be Assange’s final appeal soon. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.