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Colorado GOP participates in landmark lawsuit that seeks to block Trump from ballot

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Colorado GOP participates in landmark lawsuit that seeks to block Trump from ballot

Sep 19, 2023 | 8:45 pm ET
By Quentin Young
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Colorado GOP participates in landmark lawsuit that seeks to block Trump from ballot
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President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 27, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Colorado Republican Party is allowed to participate in a landmark lawsuit that seeks to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot in Colorado.

The judge in the case, Sarah Block Wallace of Denver District Court, granted the state GOP so-called intervenor status Monday, after party officials asked the court for permission to participate.

“Great news!” state party chair Dave Williams said today in an email to supporters. “Colorado Republicans can now file briefs, produce evidence, and challenge the other side in this case and at trial.”

The party is represented by lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice, including conservative lawyer Jay Sekulow, who served as Trump’s personal attorney during his second impeachment trial in 2020.

“This case presents one of the biggest constitutional crises of modern history. We are prepared to fight on behalf of the Colorado Republican Party all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary,” Sekulow, ACLJ’s chief counsel, and Jordan Sekulow, the center’s executive director, wrote in an announcement last week.

The Colorado GOP in the case wants to protect its authority to select the Republican candidates who appear on the ballot.

The suit was filed Sept. 6 by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of six Colorado voters, who argue Trump is disqualified under a provision of the 14th Amendment that bars certain office-seekers who have engaged in insurrection.

The plaintiffs include former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island Claudine (Cmarada) Schneider, who now lives in Colorado; former Colorado House and Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, an unaffiliated voter who recently left the Republican party; Denver Post columnist and Republican activist Krista Kafer; Michelle Priola, Kathi Wright, and Christopher Castilian.

They argue Trump, the leading GOP candidate for president in 2024, is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which says no person who took an oath to support the Constitution then had “engaged in insurrection … or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” can hold any office in the United States.

“Donald Trump tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election,” the lawsuit says. “His efforts culminated on January 6, 2021, when he incited, exacerbated, and otherwise engaged in a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol by a mob who believed they were following his orders, and refused to protect the Capitol or call off the mob for nearly three hours as the attack unfolded.”

The defendants are Trump and Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat.

Griswold is an outspoken critic of Trump who has said Trump did “incite an insurrection and attack our democracy.” But she is named as a defendant because she “has not committed to excluding Trump from the presidential ballot,” even though she has the authority to do so as the state’s top election official, the lawsuit says.

In seeking to intervene in the case, state Republican officials argued that the state party under Colorado law has the ultimate authority to determine whether an individual is a “bona fide” candidate for president and that the secretary of state’s role in placing the party’s candidate on the ballot is merely “ministerial in nature.”

They noted that their interests are aligned with Trump but not identical to his, since the party’s interests go beyond the 2024 election to its authority in all future elections in submitting presidential candidates.

In a separate court filing asking the court to prevent Griswold from blocking Trump from the Colorado ballot, the GOP officials said, “Secretary Griswold, an active member of the opposing major political party who has publicly weighed in with her views on Respondent Trump, will certainly not adequately represent the Intervenor’s interests in this action, as her mind is already made up” about Trump inciting an insurrection.

The court scheduled a five-day trial to start Oct. 30, and the judge said Monday she hopes to issue a ruling by Thanksgiving. The case is expected to be appealed, potentially up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Colorado case is seen as the first major test of the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause since the Civil War era. Other similar cases, such as one filed by Free Speech For People in Minnesota last week, are expected in other states.