Can Donald Trump still run for president after Colorado ruling?

Donald Trump at a campaign event
Image caption,Mr Trump faces several legal challenges heading into the 2024 presidential race

A court has ruled that Donald Trump cannot run for president in Colorado because of his actions ahead of the January 6 riot. So what does this mean for the general election?

The ruling said Mr Trump was ineligible as a candidate in the state’s Republican primary contest because part of the US Constitution disqualifies people who engage in insurrection.

Mr Trump has said he will appeal to the US Supreme Court to overturn the decision, setting up a court battle that could reshape the 2024 race.

The former president is favourite to become the Republican pick in November’s election, where he is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden.

Why did Colorado Supreme Court make this ruling?

It said it found “clear and convincing evidence that President Trump engaged in insurrection”.

“A majority of the court holds that Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” it concluded.

Section 3 disqualifies from federal office people who engage in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution.

It dates from the post-Civil War era and was an attempt to stop people who supported southern states leaving the Union from returning to government posts.

This is the first time Section 3 has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.

It was a split ruling, 4-3, meaning three judges on the court believe there is no legal basis to exclude Mr Trump from the ballot.

The lengthy 213-page ruling said Mr Trump’s actions in the build-up to January 6 did constitute insurrection.

His lawyers had argued in Colorado that he should not be disqualified because he did not bear responsibility for the riot.

Can Donald Trump still stand in the 2024 election?

Yes. This ruling only applies to Colorado so it leaves Mr Trump still able to run in other Republican primaries, the state-by-state search by each party for a presidential nominee.

He is far ahead of his Republican rivals so can still win his party’s nomination without competing in Colorado.

Joe Biden won in Colorado against Donald Trump in 2020 by a wide margin, and it is unlikely that Mr Trump will need to win the state, to win the election.

But there could be wider implications for the general election.

Dozens of other US states have similar lawsuits trying to bar Mr Trump from running, and this decision could make it more likely some of them succeed.

If he was stopped from running in a state where he and Mr Biden are neck-and-neck, that could be critical in a presidential race expected to be closely fought.

What happens next?

The Trump campaign has already said it will appeal to the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the US.

It will decide whether to take up the case in the new year, but it is not clear when.

As long as his team has appealed by 4 January, Mr Trump’s name will remain on the ballot in Colorado, until the Supreme Court makes its ruling.

The justices will have to consider the legal arguments which will take time, but they will be under pressure to decide before the primary on 5 March.

To add to the immense scrutiny on what the Supreme Court decides, their ruling could apply nationally and have an impact on lawsuits elsewhere.

The balance of that court has shifted to more conservative in recent years, thanks in part to three justices appointed by President Trump.

There are two key legal issues to consider.

One is whether Mr Trump’s actions in the build-up to the storming of the US Capitol equate to insurrection.

The other is whether the office holders that Section 3 was aimed at barring should include the president.

A lower court in Colorado already ruled that Mr Trump had engaged in insurrection but the law did not apply to the office of the presidency.

This latest ruling disagreed and top legal scholars are divided on whether this law should apply to Mr Trump.

What is the political impact?

His campaign says the ruling is another example of the justice system being used to persecute their candidate.

Spokesman Steven Cheung said voters in Colorado were being denied the right to pick the candidate they want to represent them.

Even some of Mr Trump’s political opponents have described the ruling as undemocratic.

“I think he should be prevented from being the president of the United States by the voters of this country,” said Republican Chris Christie, a fierce critic who is running against him.

Mr Trump has faced a litany of legal challenges since leaving office in 2021, including several criminal indictments.

They have done nothing to diminish his popularity, and in fact seem to have energised his supporters and tightened his grip on the Republican race.

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