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Justices Find Trump Ballot Arguments Supremely Vexing

A person observing the Supreme Court oral argument on the removal of the 45th president from the Colorado primary ballot may be surprised by the change in tactics from Donald Trump’s legal team. Unlike their previous cases and earlier proceedings in this one, the argument presented by Trump’s attorney was not filled with posturing. Notably, the word “bedlam” was not mentioned at all by Jonathan Mitchell, the former president’s lawyer. Mitchell, who is known for his role in drafting Texas’s controversial “heartbeat bill,” which allows private citizens to sue those involved in abortions after six weeks, is a skilled strategist and advocate. In this case, he played the role of “Court Whisperer,” assuring the justices that the case could be resolved by narrowly interpreting Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Mitchell’s argument focused on the language of Section 3, which disqualifies individuals who have taken an oath to support the Constitution from holding any office under the United States or any state. He argued that the term “President of the United States” is conspicuously absent from this list, and therefore, Trump cannot be disqualified under this section. While acknowledging the historical evidence that the Framers intended for the President to be included in this provision, Mitchell relied on a strict interpretation of the text, citing other instances in the Constitution where the term “office” refers to appointed officials rather than elected ones.

In addition, Mitchell argued that the language of Section 3, which includes “Senator or Representative,” does not necessarily mean that the provision applies to all elected officials. He claimed that this sweeping language actually supports his argument that the omission of “President” is significant. Mitchell’s arguments seemed to resonate with the Court, as they are likely seeking a way to avoid a decision that could cause further legal and possibly physical turmoil. Ultimately, Mitchell’s arguments were aimed at finding a narrow interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment that would allow Trump to remain on the ballot. 

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