A group of voters sued Tuesday to kick former President Donald Trump off the ballot in Minnesota, the latest effort to cite a little-known provision in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to argue that he is ineligible to be president because he violated his oath of office after he lost the 2020 election.
"Donald J. Trump, through his words and actions, after swearing an oath as an officer of the United States to support the Constitution, engaged in insurrection or rebellion, or gave aid and comfort to its enemies, as defined by Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment," says the suit, which was brought with the assistance of the liberal election and campaign finance reform organization Free Speech for People.
The Civil War-era Section 3 says: “No person shall ... hold any office, civil or military, under the United States ... who, having previously taken an oath ... as an officer of the United States, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
It's the second such suit to have been filed this month. Last week, another group of voters backed by the left-leaning government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an action to keep Trump off the ballot in Colorado. Similar challenges have also been filed in Florida and Michigan.
Trump has called the efforts “nonsense” and “election interference.”
Ron Fein, the legal director at Free Speech for People, said in a statement that the legal action was necessary because Trump "incited a violent insurrection that attacked the U.S. Capitol, threatened the assassination of the Vice President and congressional leaders, and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our nation’s history."
“Our predecessors understood that oath-breaking insurrectionists will do it again, and worse, if allowed back into power, so they enacted the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause to protect the republic from people like Trump. Trump is legally barred from the ballot and election officials must follow this constitutional mandate,” Fein added.
He told NBC News that his group “plans to file additional formal legal challenges in multiple states" while seeking to persuade secretaries of state to use their authority to exclude Trump under Section 3. Fein wouldn't specify how many lawsuits are planned or which states they would be filed in.
The Minnesota suit doesn't name Trump as a defendant — it's directed at Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, who had previously shot down letters from Free Speech for People urging him to take action.
"The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State does not have legal authority to investigate a candidate’s eligibility for office. In the case of presidential candidates, the major political parties will submit names of candidates to our office for the Presidential Nomination Primary by January 2, 2024. Those submissions will appear on the ballot for the March 5, 2024 contest unless a court says otherwise," Simon said in a statement last week.
The filing insists Simon does have authority to take action, and it seeks a court order declaring Trump disqualified and directing Simon to keep Trump's name off the primary and general election ballots.
In a statement Tuesday, Simon's office said, "For the sake of Minnesota’s voters, we hope the court resolves this issue to allow for orderly administration of the elections in 2024."
Fein said he expects that if the Minnesota Supreme Court rules to remove Trump from the state’s ballot, he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
“I cannot guarantee whether they would grant review, and, of course, nobody can guarantee what the outcome would be, but I do like to emphasize that in all of his 2020 lawsuits, he uniformly failed at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Fein said, adding that he feels confident in the strength of the Minnesota case. “The legal argument that Jan. 6 is an insurrection is rock solid,” he said.
A Trump campaign spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.
In a post last week on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump said the law is on his side. "Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. Like Election Interference, it is just another ‘trick’ being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists,” he wrote.
Some legal scholars, however, including some prominent conservative ones, have said the effort may be successful.
Fein said: "Many people are surprised when they first encounter Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, because it had not been part of our national conversation for so long. But that’s because we didn’t have insurrections against the United States led by presidents in our nation’s history until quite recently.”