Former Obama Adviser Issues Warning After Trump Ballot Rulings

Former Obama Adviser Issues Warning After Trump Ballot Rulings

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‘It would rip the country apart if he were actually prevented from running because tens of millions of people want to vote for him,’ David Axelrod said.

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod warned that recent decisions to remove former President Donald Trump from state primary ballots would cause significant turmoil ahead of the 2024 election.

This past week, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows barred President Trump from the ballot, claiming his actions before the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol violated the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause.”

Days before that, the Colorado Supreme Court removed President Trump from the state ballot under similar readings of the amendment.

“I have very, very strong reservations about all of this,” Mr. Axelrod told CNN, referring to the ballot activity.

“I do think it would rip the country apart if he were actually prevented from running because tens of millions of people want to vote for him.”

Regarding President Trump, “you’re going to probably have to do it at the polls” rather than via the 14th Amendment.

Could Vindicate His Claim

The former White House adviser then said that the decisions in Colorado and Maine could vindicate the former president’s claims that he is being unfairly targeted by Democratic officials.

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“A lot of the motivation for [Trump’s] candidacy was as a legal defense strategy,” Mr. Axelrod said. “He wanted to set up a construct … which says that they’re coming after him because he’s running for president and they’re trying to prevent him from being president.”

He continued: “We’ve run this experiment; he’s only gained since he started getting indicted. What you thought might be kryptonite for him has turned out to be battery packs, and this is a big one for him.”

In Maine, the Democrat official suspended her finding until that court system rules on the case.  It’s likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say on whether President Trump appears on the ballot in Maine and the other states.

“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Ms Bellows wrote in her 34-page decision. “I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

The former president has not been convicted of or even charged with an insurrection or rebellion against the U.S. government.

While Maine has just four electoral votes, it’s one of two states to split them. President Trump won one of Maine’s electors in 2020, so having him off the ballot there, should he emerge as the Republican general election candidate, could have outsized implications in a race that is expected to be narrowly decided.

That’s in contrast to Colorado, which leans heavily Democratic and is expected to stay that way in 2024.

 Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows speaks at an event in Augusta, Maine, on Jan. 4, 2023. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows speaks at an event in Augusta, Maine, on Jan. 4, 2023. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Legal experts said that the Maine and Colorado rulings demonstrate the need for the nation’s highest court, which has never ruled on Section 3, to clarify what states can do. Otherwise, more states and courts may try to remove President Trump from their respective ballots.

“It is clear that these decisions are going to keep popping up, and inconsistent decisions reached (like the many states keeping Trump on the ballot over challenges) until there is final and decisive guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, wrote in response to the Maine decision.

“It seems a certainty that SCOTUS will have to address the merits sooner or later.”

The Trump campaign last week requested that Ms. Bellows, a former head of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),  disqualify herself from the case. The ACLU is a liberal, legal powerhouse that has veered farther leftward in recent years.

Refuses to Step Aside

The Trump campaig cited her tweet saying that Jan. 6 was an “insurrection” and that she bemoaned that Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate after the capitol attack. She refused to step aside.

All seven of the justices of the Colorado Supreme Court, which split 4-3 on whether to become the first court in history to declare a presidential candidate ineligible under Section 3, were appointed by Democrats.

Two Washington, D.C.-based left-wing groups have launched the most serious prior challenges to President Trump, in Colorado and a handful of other states.

The Trump campaign confirmed to news outlets that it would appeal the Maine decision and criticized Ms. Bellows’ ruling as “election interference.”

“We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

“Make no mistake, these partisan election interference efforts are a hostile assault on American democracy.”

Polls have shown that the former president is still, by far, the leading GOP candidate for president. An aggregate of surveys shows him with a 50-point lead over both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, respectively.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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