Eight Assemblymembers and a state Senator announced during the weekend that they have asked Attorney General Rob Bonta to not include former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican Primary ballot in California due to his alleged involvement in the Capitol insurrection of January 2021.
For the last several weeks, there have been numerous efforts to keep Trump off the ballot in several states by going through each individual states’ Attorney General. To date, this has included states such as Colorado, Minnesota and New Hampshire, with all states involved saying that Trump should not be on the ballot due to the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, they have noted the part that states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution after taking a note to defend it is ineligible to hold office.”
Despite being only a few weeks old, these already existing efforts have faced numerous legal challenges. Some experts have said that it is a matter for state courts. Others have noted that the decision should be with the Supreme Court of the United States. And still others note that the effort is a total non-starter as it is unconstitutional as he has only been indicted in the current insurrection case, with the trial and verdict yet to come up.
However, despite the questionable legality of having a state Secretary of State try to keep a candidate off a ballot, nine state lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Rob Bonta over the weekend to try and block Trump from appearing on the March primary ballot. According to the letter, signed by Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Campbell), Mike Fong (D-Alhambra), Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), Alex Lee (D-San Jose), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Stephanie Nguyen (D-Elk Grove), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Senator Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), Bonta should bring the matter of if Trump should be removed from the primary ballot due to the Fourteenth Amendment.
“We all watched in horror Mr. Trump’s insurrection against the United States when he ordered a mob of his supporters to the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 to intimidate Vice President Pence and the United States Congress and interrupt the certification of the 2020 Presidential election that Mr. Trump lost,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “Mr. Trump swore to uphold the United States Constitution when he affirmed his oath of office upon being elected as the 45th president of the United States on January 20th, 2017. Multiple courts have already declared January 6, 2021’s events as an insurrection against the United States of America. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is clear: no person who has taken an oath of office and engaged in insurrection against the United States shall hold public office in the United States.”
“As California’s top law enforcement officer, you are uniquely positioned to proactively seek the court’s opinion to confirm Mr. Trump’s inability to hold office given these facts. We request the Office of the Attorney General’s immediate intervention on behalf of the people of California, these United States, and our Constitution.”
In a statement, Assemblyman Low added, “Americans witnessed Trump order his army of supporters to the United States Capitol and multiple courts have already declared the events of that day an insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021. Whatever the courts decide it is important that they do so quickly to avoid further political strife, and the Attorney General is uniquely positioned to get the American people the answers we need to protect our Republic.”
A challenge over Trump being on the 2024 Primary ballot
Bonta’s office later confirmed receiving the letter but gave no immediate action. However, they did say that they would review the letter.
“We are aware of the letter and will review the request internally,” said Bonta’s office during the weekend. “There is no denying that Donald Trump has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader — let alone a president of the United States. Beyond that, we have no additional comment.”
As of Monday, the Trump campaign has yet to respond to the Californian letter. However, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung responded to a similar effort last month by saying that “the people who are pushing this political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition much like the political prosecutors in New York, Georgia, and DC. There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it.”
While the effort, much like those in other states, is considered unlikely to succeed, they are still expected to go the legal route and may possibly go before courts in several states, including California, if moved forward by the respective Attorney General. Legal experts told the Globe on Monday that California’s effort is legally questionable and could even be considered unconstitutional, or at the very least, a matter for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.
“The latest effort to remove Trump from a ballot, here, is a lot like the others,” said Constitutional lawyer Mary Van Patten. “So, one official cannot make this call for an entire state. A few are claiming they can, but they just can’t. It needs to go to the court. Now here there are several wanting a state court to make the call. The California letter said as much but, conveniently, didn’t even name a court. I mean, come on, you push to remove someone off the ballot and you you can’t even get specific on which court you want. I mean high school students taking government can name the courts.”
“What is being seen more and more though is that the decision would ultimately lie with the U.S. Supreme Court. And whatever they decide there goes down to all the states, so that would be far reaching. Also, Trump has only been indicted on January 6th. There has been no trial, no verdict. In the media, some say he did incite people to do that, others that he didn’t. There’s been no definitive legal ruling on this, and that is really what this comes down to. In fact, if you recall his second impeachment, he was acquitted of “incitement of insurrection”.
“This likely won’t lead anywhere, but if for some reason it does and California or another state’s Attorney General pushes it up, it will likely fall on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Bonta’s ultimate action regarding the letter is expected soon.
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