Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is arguing that he cannot be barred from the 2024 presidential ballot for his role in the January 6th insurrection because he never took an oath pledging to defend the Constitution, Newsweek reported on Tuesday, November 28.
This stunning claim comes as part of an appeal in response to a lawsuit seeking to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prohibit Trump from holding future office.
The case originated from a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other plaintiffs stating Trump’s actions on January 6th amounted to “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States Constitution.
While a Colorado judge previously ruled Trump “engaged in insurrection on January 6,” she allowed him to remain on the state’s primary ballot because Section 3 does not explicitly mention eligibility for the presidency.
Trump’s lawyers are now taking an audacious new angle by asserting the former president never took an oath to “support” the Constitution, a requirement for Section 3 to apply.
Instead, they argue Trump swore only to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution at his 2017 inauguration.
“The framers excluded the office of President from Section Three purposefully,” the legal briefing states.
“Section Three does not apply, because the presidency is not an ‘office under the United States,’ the president is not an ‘officer of the United States,’ and President Trump did not take an oath ‘to support the Constitution of the United States.’”
Constitutional experts were quick to condemn this reasoning as absurd.
“Trump is arguing the president is not an ‘officer of the United States’ — and so he can’t be disqualified from office under the 14th Amendment,” said Tristan Snell, former assistant attorney general of New York.
The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to review the case, with oral arguments beginning December 6th.
Their decision could have far-reaching implications in determining whether Trump’s conduct makes him ineligible to appear on election ballots going forward.
Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination and has vigorously disputed allegations that he helped incite or coordinate the attack on the Capitol.
However, his latest legal defense strategy of claiming he never swore an oath to defend the Constitution he was entrusted to preserve has provoked intense backlash.
“This treacherous criminal is head of the Republican Party,” fumed Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), reacting on Twitter.
While Trump prevailed on this specific argument in the lower court case, constitutional law experts emphasize that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment clearly applies to the presidency.
The upcoming Colorado Supreme Court hearing to bar Trump from the state’s ballot will determine if his apparent oath to only “preserve, protect and defend” rather than “support” the Constitution is enough to shield him from the consequences of his actions to undermine American democracy on January 6th.