By LaBode Obanor
In her November 17, 2023 ruling, Judge Wallace of the Colorado 2nd Judicial District concluded that DonaldTrump indeed “engaged in insurrection” on January 6, 2021, against the United States. The First Amendment (freedom of expression) does not protect him, finding that Trump “acted with the specific intent to disrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden’s electoral victory through unlawful means.”
The corollary of her finding means that Trump stands disqualified from running for elected office under section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
As the finder of fact and having made such a verdict, the judge, in the same ruling, refused to bar Trump or remove his name from the 2024 Colorado ballot. Stating: “After considering the arguments on both sides, the Court is persuaded that ‘officers of the United States’ did not include the President of the United States.” Judge Wallace said.
Erroneously interpreting section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
“It appears to the Court that for whatever reason, the drafters of Section 3 did not intend to include a person who had only taken the Presidential Oath.”
She concludes: “Part of the Court’s decision is its reluctance to embrace an interpretation which would disqualify a presidential candidate without a clear, unmistakable indication that such is the intent of Section Three,”
Puzzled and dumbstruck after reading her 103-page decision, here is how I think she dropped the ball on her misguided ruling.
First, a cursory examination of the 14th Amendment addresses the issue of loyalty to the United States under which this lawsuit against Trump was premised.
Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment is one of the most significant amendments to the United States Constitution. It was legalized to ensure that all citizens were treated equally under the law, and it has been the basis for many landmark Supreme Court decisions over the years. One of the key provisions of the 14th Amendment is Section 3, which prohibits individuals who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States from holding public office.
Enacted as a response to the Civil War and the efforts of the Confederacy to secede from the Union, Section 3 intended to prevent individuals involved in the rebellion from taking positions of power within the government once the war was over. The framers of the Amendment recognized the need to ensure that those who had sought to overthrow the government would not be able to assume positions of authority and influence in the future.
The language of Section 3 is straightforward: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
As if the language is vague, this judge finds it unambiguously exempted presidents. In other words, Judge Wallace believes that while senators, representatives, judges, and other persons are officers of the United States, Presidents are not.
What an absurd conclusion.
And the absurdity in her ruling is even more glaring as her legal reasoning is unpacked. She singlehandedly and cleverly separated President Trump from other elected officers, senators, and representatives carrying government function, claiming that the framers of the Amendment did not intend to include presidents in the draft. Put differently, according to Wallace, presidents are not officers of the United States. Thus, he/she is free to rebel against or aid the “enemies of the States” without consequences or punishment. Whereas his colleagues and officers in other branches of government are not. Such judicial reasoning has no justification in law and is woefully illogical to undercut the framers’ intent, who are obviously trying to prevent traitors from ever returning to government. It is ludicrous to think or suggest, let alone rule, that they would have exempted a turncoat, traitorous President.
Let’s dig further and disabuse ourselves from this hogwash of a ruling.
Let’s take, for example, Article II Section 1. A more straightforward interpretation of whether the President of the United States is an officer: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows..”
The key phrase there is “He shall hold his office.” A person who holds a public office, such as the office of the President, is a public officer. Marriam Webster defines a public officer as: “a person who has been legally elected or appointed to office and who exercises governmental functions.” E.g., presidents. Furthermore, an officer is “one who holds an office of trust, authority or command.” E.g., a president.
No reasonable person would believe that the President of the United States does not occupy an office of trust, authority, or command or that he was not legally elected. Lest we forget, he is also the commander-in-chief.
Thus, a President is a public officer of trust who wields authority and command and occupies the office of the President.
If the President then occupies such a sacred office charged with the responsibility “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” then he is unquestionable and unarguable an “officer” of the United States.”
Withal, it is pertinent to note that Article VI Section 3 included the President among United States officers and called him/her an officer. It states: “..the Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution..”.
Again, consider the phrase “and all executive and judicial officers. ” According to Article VI, members of the executive branch are deemed “officers,” and the President is the head of all the officers of the executive branch of government.
He also takes an oath or affirmation upon his swearing, just as the other officers do pursuant to the Constitution.
So, it is preposterous to conclude that the framers of the Constitution did not intend the President to be an officer.
Therefore, based on Donald Trump’s conduct in the days leading to, and on January 6, 2021, and now a judicial finding declaring him an insurrectionist, he is therefore ineligible to run for the office of the President or any office of the United States, and he should be disqualified forthwith.
This is the only logical and legal conclusion expected. Anything short of this is tantamount to aiding, abetting, and comforting an overt enemy of the United States who has openly advocated the suspension of the Constitution and espoused a proclivity toward authoritarianism.
The parties appealed Judge Wallace’s ruling, and the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to take up the matter. The plaintiff seeks to reverse her decision to keep Trump on the ballot, while Trump is appealing that he did not engage in insurrection.
Regardless of the outcome at the Colorado apex court, this matter will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Then and then, only would we know whether the steady erosion of America’s democracy would finally leave this national experiment perched on the very edge of the cliff.