Judge: Donald Trump can appear on Michigan ballot despite ‘insurrection’ challenge
- Michigan judge rejects lawsuits seeking to disqualify Trump from ballot because of insurrection clause in U.S. Constitution
- Judge Robert James Redford says 14th Amendment presents a ‘political question’ not fit for courts to decide
- Plaintiffs plan appeals, arguing Trump should be barred from ballot for Capitol riot
LANSING — Donald Trump can appear on Michigan’s 2024 presidential primary ballot and the state cannot stop him, a judge ruled Tuesday, rejecting a pair of lawsuits that had sought to bar the former president for “insurrection.”
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Robert Redford offered Trump much of the relief he had sought in a counter-lawsuit: A declaration that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has no authority to decide whether Trump should be disqualified based on “federal constitutional law.”
But Redford declined to rule on Trump’s fitness for the general election and declined to settle debate over the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which disqualifies from office anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the country “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
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Whether that insurrection clause applies to Trump is a “political question” not fit for the courts to decide at this time, Redford wrote in one of three separate opinions released Tuesday as courts in other several other states consider similar challenges.
Lawsuits from a handful of Michigan voters and attorney activist Robert Davis had argued Trump should be kept off the ballot because he encouraged his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to block congressional certification of his loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.
Redford ruled that Michigan law sets clear guidelines for who can appear on the ballot and suggested it would be inappropriate for a “single judicial officer” to decide questions that Congress may be better positioned to answer, including: “What is an insurrection or a rebellion?” and “What is it to engage in it or to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Constitution?”
Attorney Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called the decision “very disappointing” and said he plans to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals and request consideration by the state Supreme Court.
“The judge did not reach the merits — the question of whether Trump engaged in rebellion or insurrection, which we think he did,” Brewer said.
Davis said he also plans to appeal Redford’s decision and is continuing separate litigation asking the Wayne County Election Commission to do the same.
“This is a very controversial question, and everyone is saying I don't have the authority to do it,” Davis said, telling Bridge he still believes the courts will ultimately have to settle the debate over Trump’s eligibility.
Trump’s attorneys have argued that the events of Jan. 6 amounted to a “riot,” rather than an insurrection, and denied he played any direct role in the violence that damaged the Capitol, alarmed the nation and killed five people.
As he seeks to return to the White House, and enjoys a wide lead in polls of the GOP primary field despite a series of criminal charges he has pleaded not guilty to, Trump’s campaign has blasted the Michigan lawsuit as part of an attempt by Democrats to “steal” the 2024 presidential election.
The Michigan lawsuit is among a series of similar legal challenges across the country. The Minnesota Supreme Court last week ruled that Trump can appear on that state’s GOP primary ballot but did not decide his qualifications for the general election, a decision cited by Redford in his Michigan rulings.
“Each and every one of these ridiculous cases have LOST because they are all un-constitutional left-wing fantasies … to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a Tuesday statement.
Benson, Michigan's Democratic Secretary of State, has said she would not unilaterally kick Trump off the ballot and on Monday included him in a proposed list of candidates for the Feb. 27 presidential primaries.
Other candidates on Benson’s list included Republicans Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson, along with Democratic President Joe Biden, Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips.
The Michigan Republican Party and Michigan Democratic Party have until the end of Tuesday to submit any additional names to Benson that they think should appear on the primary ballot. Candidates can withdraw through Dec. 8.
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