Free Speech for People, an anti-Trump nonprofit organization, has recently filed a lawsuit in Michigan with the aim of preventing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s 2024 ballot. The organization argues that Trump violated his presidential oath by participating in an “insurrection” against the Constitution. This lawsuit is part of a series of similar suits being filed by like-minded groups across the United States.
The basis for the lawsuit is Section Three of the 14th Amendment, a provision ratified in 1868. This provision was designed to prevent former Confederate officials from attaining positions of power in the reconstructed US Congress. It states that anyone who took an oath to the Constitution but later “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it is barred from running for certain offices. However, the office of the president was not explicitly included in this provision, only the office of elector for president and vice president.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that these lawsuits violate his own constitutional rights. They have called for the dismissal of this suit, as well as similar suits filed by the same group in Minnesota and another suit filed in Colorado by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Trump himself has repeatedly declared that the campaign to remove him from the ballot constitutes illegal election interference and an attempt to stifle his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. While he was impeached by House Democrats for his alleged role in inciting the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, he was never found guilty by the Senate. Despite media commentators frequently using the term “insurrection” to describe the rally, none of the individuals charged with crimes related to their attendance were actually charged with rebellion or insurrection. This would require proving that they had gone to the Capitol with the intent of overthrowing the government.
Free Speech for People describes itself as an organization founded in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed for a significant influx of corporate money into politics. While its original focus was on repealing this ruling, the organization has now shifted its attention to keeping Trump from returning to the Oval Office. In addition to the lawsuits filed in Michigan and Minnesota, the organization has written letters to election officials in all 50 states, insisting that Trump be removed from their ballots should he attempt to run for the presidency again.
Section Three of the 14th Amendment has not been applied to a political candidate since 1919 when a Socialist member of the House was not seated by Congress on the grounds that he had supposedly aided and comforted the enemy during World War I. It remains to be seen how the courts will interpret and apply this provision in the context of Trump’s potential candidacy in 2024.
In summary, Free Speech for People is taking legal action to prevent Donald Trump from appearing on the ballot in Michigan’s 2024 election, arguing that he violated his presidential oath through his involvement in the insurrection at the Capitol. Trump’s lawyers dispute these claims, asserting that the lawsuits infringe upon his constitutional rights. The organization, originally focused on repealing the Citizens United decision, has shifted its focus to preventing Trump from returning to the presidency. The application of Section Three of the 14th Amendment to political candidates is a rare occurrence, and the outcome of these lawsuits remains uncertain.