Democrats are avoiding discussing the case that has the potential to remove Donald Trump from the ballot.
The legal challenge currently before the highest court in the land poses a significant threat to Trump’s political future. On Thursday, the court will determine whether Trump is eligible to run for president once again, or if his involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack disqualifies him from holding office.
Republicans have united in support of the former president, contending that he should not face disqualification due to a multitude of reasons. Some even assert that Trump holds no accountability for the events that transpired three years ago. On the other hand, Democrats have been hesitant to provide a definitive stance on the matter, even when prompted.
No Democratic member of Congress, governor, state attorney general, or secretary of state filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of removing Trump.
Democrats on Capitol Hill did not make a concerted effort to weigh in on the case. While individual members expressed their belief in the merit of the case, the lack of a party response was met with indifference.
Democrats may be avoiding involvement in the 14th Amendment issue to prevent any perception of politicizing the law and the courts. However, the potential disqualification of a prominent presidential candidate is inherently a political and legal matter. It is worth noting that the Democrats’ response has been relatively muted, while Republicans have shown eagerness to engage in this specific debate.
Democrats have always struggled with how to address Trump’s legal issues, even when they are more political in nature rather than legal. For instance, when some Democrats applauded Trump’s first impeachment, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly silenced them.
“The decision will ultimately be made by the courts, based on the merits of the case. Democrats expressing their opinions is unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome,” stated Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), co-chair of the Jan. 6 committee, in an interview with POLITICO. He acknowledged that there are valid concerns about Trump’s candidacy in light of the investigation, but emphasized that the final decision should rest with individual states.”
When questioned about the challenges, President Joe Biden has chosen not to provide a direct response. Furthermore, the Department of Justice has deliberately refrained from commenting on the matter.
Republicans rallied behind Trump, filing numerous briefs in support of his cause. Surprisingly, Democrats did not provide much input in favor of the opposing side. In fact, there were more former Republican elected officials who spoke out against Trump than Democrats who supported the argument for his disqualification.
“I’m not really sure,” answered Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) when questioned about the absence of a Democratic caucus briefing. “You’d have to ask the individuals who typically handle those matters. However, it shouldn’t be treated as a political game.”
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, took an active role in the legal battle by declaring in December that Trump was ineligible to be on the ballot in her state. Although her decision was temporarily halted by a state court pending a ruling in the Colorado case, she did not file a brief to provide input on the Supreme Court case.
Democratic officials have mostly been absent from the legal process, leaving the decision to the courts. Some secretaries of state have avoided making a judgment, stating that it is the court’s responsibility. They faced public pressure to disqualify him. Governor Gavin Newsom of California attempted to downplay the issue, stating that defeating candidates at the polls is the primary focus in California, dismissing other actions as political distractions.
According to Devon Ombres, senior director for courts and legal policy at the liberal think tank The Center for American Progress and former senior council to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the repeated setbacks from the Supreme Court may simply be a result of becoming accustomed to disappointment. Ombres jokingly suggests that perhaps they shouldn’t jinx their chances.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, an elected Democrat, refrained from taking a definitive stance on the legal merits in her brief to the court. Instead, she emphasized the importance of a timely resolution for the sake of our democracy. Benson urged the court to issue a conclusive ruling rather than deferring the decision for later consideration.
Former Democratic elected officials are few and far between when it comes to opposing Trump’s presence on the ballot. Only a small group of former state Supreme Court justices, who were either appointed by Democrats or elected with their support, have joined a bipartisan brief advocating for keeping Trump off the ballot. Additionally, former California Rep. Pete McCloskey, who served in Congress long before becoming a Democrat, also supports this stance.
In stark contrast, there was a wide range of Republican support for Trump. Approximately 200 Republican members of Congress, including Speaker Mike Johnson and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed their backing for Trump by signing onto a brief. Additionally, all three of the GOP’s federal committees – the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC – as well as almost three dozen state Republican Parties, voiced their support for Trump in separate filings.
On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch supporter of Trump, held a press conference to announce that 65 House Republicans are introducing a resolution. The resolution aims to express the House of Representatives’ belief that former President Donald J. Trump did not participate in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, nor did he provide aid or comfort to its enemies.
Flanked by the House GOP’s No. 4 leader, Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), he confidently stated, “We are here today to assert with authority that President Trump did not engage in an insurrection. We firmly believe that it is Congress’s responsibility to make such a declaration, and not that of the states or any Colorado bureaucrats.”
Senator J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who is often considered as a possible running mate for Trump, has put forward a comparable resolution in the Senate.
Some Republicans who now support disqualifying Trump believe that Democrats may have chosen not to participate due to concerns about politicization.
According to former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who signed onto a brief with eleven other former GOP members, there seems to be a concern that the move to keep the former president off the ballot might be seen as an attempt to engage in politics. Walsh and his colleagues argue that Trump should be disqualified.
Three former Republican governors also expressed their support, stating that their objective in filing this brief is not partisan but purely patriotic. They are motivated by their commitment to public service and their adherence to longstanding principles of fidelity, integrity, and honor.
The Biden administration has largely avoided involvement in the case. The Department of Justice has refrained from submitting a brief or requesting argument time from the solicitor general. Additionally, President Biden has rarely addressed the issue in public.
The White House declined to provide a comment for this article, and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
In December, Biden openly expressed to reporters that it was clear and undeniable that Trump was the one responsible for leading an insurrection, following Colorado’s ruling that Trump was disqualified. However, when it comes to the question of whether the 14th Amendment should disqualify his potential opponent in the general election from running, Biden did not provide a direct answer.
He said that he would let the court make that decision.