WASHINGTON — Democratic and liberal groups determined to find a way to prevent former President Donald Trump from returning to office are preparing several ways to disqualify him, including writing a new law and preparing for a series of lawsuits seeking to use a clause hidden in the Constitution in order to be considered an insurrectionist.
The plans amount to a high-stakes effort to do what several Trump investigations have failed to do: preclude any chance that the former president could regain power, whether voters want it or not. They reflect growing concern among Democrats and liberal activists seeking ways to end the political career of the former president and the officials who helped him try to cling to the presidency, including using various new and in some cases little-known strategies.
Democrats and some Republicans who do not support Trump fear that Attorney General Merrick Garland will not pursue criminal action against Trump for his efforts to change the outcome of the 2020 election, which culminated in the January 6, 2021 violent attack on Capitol Hill. Even if Trump were indicted and convicted of committing a crime, there is no law that prevents even a criminal in prison from becoming president.
At the same time, Trump is the presumed favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. His popularity among his party base appears unabated by a series of high-profile House hearings this year that reveal the breadth of their efforts to jeopardize democratic elections.
Some of the efforts to block his return are taking place in states where the nonprofit organization Free Speech For People and other groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics have been filing lawsuits against lawmakers involved in Trump’s attempts to reverse his 2020 loss.
This momentum gained momentum this week when a judge in New Mexico removed Couy Griffin from his position as Otero County Commissioner in that state and labeled him an insurrectionist for his involvement in the January 6 riots, in addition to helping to spread the lies about the elections that motivated the assault. The judge’s action against Griffin, the Cowboys with Trump founder sentenced earlier this year for trespassing when he walked through the Capitol barricades during the attack, marked the first time in more than a century that a public official has been barred from holding office. in accordance with the constitutional prohibition that a person who is considered an insurgent hold a public office.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a nonpartisan watchdog organization that filed the lawsuit against Griffin, said the judge’s ruling sent a clear message that what happened on January 6 could be considered an insurrection and that those involved in the “planning, mobilization and incitement” of violence that day, including Trump, could be barred from being public servants.
He said that his group was studying “carefully” how to carry out those challenges against the former president.
“There is a great deal of evidence that Donald Trump was involved in efforts to change the results of the election and incite the January 6 attack,” Bookbinder said. “It looks like we have a serious case that could apply to Donald Trump,” he added.
Progressive activists have also met with secretaries of state and sent letters to election-monitoring officials to try to convince them to use their powers to get everyone involved in the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill to stay. off the 2024 ballot. Election officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have already received letters urging them to block Trump from the ballot.
And work is underway on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have already drafted legislation aimed at enforcing the ban in the 14th Amendment.
“If Trump decides to run for president, we are ready to challenge his eligibility under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment in multiple states,” said Ron Fein, a lawyer for Free Speech For People, which is planning a legal crackdown. “It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that he is not qualified to hold public office under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”
A year and a half after Trump left the White House, Democrats continue to see him as a serious danger to the country and many of them are growing concerned that he could return to power, even after a special counsel investigation, two impeachment trials, a landslide 2020 election victory, and a revealing congressional investigation into Trump’s efforts to reverse the election result.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, but Trump’s lawyers know they could overcome those challenges to keep him on the ballot in multiple states, according to people with knowledge of what they have said. Lawyers have been attentive to state lawsuits against other public servants.
In recent weeks, some high-profile Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that could make it easier for such lawsuits to achieve their goal as far as Trump and other politicians involved in the Jan. 6 events are concerned, though they stand no chance of moving them forward.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks, and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was chair of the Democratic National Committee, introduced legislation to declare the attack of January 6 to the Capitol is an insurrection and to authorize the attorney general to investigate and initiate civil proceedings against anyone suspected of violating the oaths to take public office. The bill also proposes to authorize any citizen to file a civil action to disqualify a public servant.
Raskin commented that he was discussing with other members of the commission investigating the events of January 6 the inclusion of the measure among the panel’s recommendations —along with revisions to the Electoral Recount Law and other possible changes—, which are expected that they will get quite a bit of attention when they are revealed in the coming weeks.