Watchdog group vows 14th Amendment insurrection clause challenge if Donald Trump runs in 2024

Watchdog group vows 14th Amendment insurrection clause challenge if Donald Trump runs in 2024
Image via Gage Skidmore.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told former President Donald Trump on Thursday that if he tries to return to the White House or runs for any other political office in 2024, the D.C.-based watchdog will, using the 14th Amendment's anti-insurrectionist clause, attempt to disqualify him for fomenting last year's deadly right-wing riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"Should you seek or secure any future elected or appointed government office including the presidency of the United States," CREW president Noah Bookbinder wrote in a letter sent to Trump, "we will pursue your disqualification under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment based on your engaging in the insurrection that culminated on January 6, 2021."

As the letter explains, "Section 3 of the 14th Amendment provides that no individual who engages in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution—after having previously taken an oath to support it—shall hold any federal or state office (unless Congress, by a vote of two-thirds in each house, removes such disability)."

The letter continues:

CREW believes you are barred from holding office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment because you engaged in insurrection against the Constitution you swore to defend. On January 20, 2017, you stood on the West Front of the United States Capitol, placed your left hand on the Bible, and swore a sacred oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." On January 6, 2021, an insurrection that you incited culminated in a violent attack on the same hallowed grounds, where Congress was meeting to certify the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election pursuant to the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act, 3 U.S.C. § 15. By summoning a violent mob to disrupt the transition of presidential power mandated by the Constitution after having sworn to defend the same, you made yourself ineligible to hold public office again.

"The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming," Bookbinder said in a statement. "We are ready, willing, and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office."

There is precedent for using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment—originally adopted to disempower members of the Confederacy who engaged in the slaveholding states' treasonous insurrection against the Union—to hold accountable those who participated in Trump's coup attempt.

As CREW noted:

In September, a New Mexico judge ordered Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin be removed from office, following a lawsuit brought by CREW and others, ruling that the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection and that Griffin's participation in it disqualified him under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That decision marked the first time since 1869 that a court has disqualified a public official under Section 3, and the first time that any court has ruled the events of January 6, 2021 an insurrection.

In his letter to Trump, Bookbinder wrote that "CREW is resolved to restore the fundamental expectation that sustains our democracy—that the American people elect their leaders and that government leaders accept those results."

"If you seek elected or appointed office despite being constitutionally disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for engaging in insurrection," he added, "we and others loyal to the Constitution will defend it."

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