Former President Donald Trump has appealed the ruling issued last week by Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows to remove his name from the state’s primary ballot in 2024.
Secretary Bellows argued in her decision that former President Trump engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021 and is thereby disqualified from serving as President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment reads:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, 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. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
On these grounds, the Secretary concluded that the former president’s “primary petition is invalid,” consequently preventing him from appearing on the 2024 Republican presidential primary ballot in Maine.
“I conclude,” Bellows wrote in her official decision, “that the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power.”
“I likewise conclude that Mr. Trump was aware of the likelihood for violence and at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it,” Bellows continued.
Although Trump has never been convicted by a U.S. court or the U.S. Senate for any crime related to “insurrection,” that is not necessarily a prerequisite of disqualification under Section Three.
Click Here to Read the Maine Wire’s Coverage of the Eight Hour Hearing in Which Both the Challengers and Former President Trump’s Legal Team Presented Their Arguments and Evidence to the Secretary of State
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bellows wrote in her decision. “I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“I am also mindful, however,” she continued, “that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
In her decision, Bellows suspended the effects of her ruling “until the Superior Court rules on any appeal, or the time to appeal has expired.”
After the publication of her ruling, the former president had five days to appeal the Secretary’s decision by “commencing an action” in Superior Court, which he did on Tuesday afternoon.
In his filing, Trump argued that he is “aggrieved” by Bellows’ decision because:
- “The Secretary was a biased decisionmaker who should have recused herself and otherwise failed to provide lawful due process;”
- “The Secretary had no legal authority…to consider the federal constitutional issues presented by the Challengers;”
- “The Secretary made multiple errors of law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner;”
- “President Trump will be illegally excluded from the ballot as a result of the Secretary’s actions.”
Trump also argued in his petition that Bellows “should have recused herself due to her bias against President Trump, as demonstrated by a documented history of prior statements prejudging the issue presented.”
The filing also contends that the former president was denied due process because the Secretary “fail[ed] to give him adequate time and opportunity to present a defense.”
“Because President Trump’s sworn statement, in the form provided by the Secretary,” the filing continues, “was factually true, it was an error of law, arbitrary and capricious, and an abuse of discretion for her to find it false.”
The filing also offers extensive arguments against Bellows’ interpretation of Section Three and its applicability to the former president.
In part, the former president made the case that Section Three:
- Presents political questions reserved for Congress and the Electoral College;
- Is not self-executing, and thereby requires legislation — of which there is none — to “give it effect;”
- Bars disqualified individuals from holding office, not running for office;
- Does not apply to the presidency.
Trump also argues in the filing that Section Three does not apply to him as he did not “engage” in “insurrection.” The former president also contends that the examples of political speech used as evidence by Bellows are protected by the First Amendment as they “did not incite insurrection.”
In his petition, Trump asks the Superior Court to vacate Bellows’ ruling and declare that “the Secretary has no jurisdiction or authority to continue, maintain, or begin any further proceedings concerning President Trump’s alleged disqualification as a candidate for President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Because of how Bellows’ drafted her decision, Trump’s removal from the state’s primary ballot is suspended until the Court issues a ruling on the former president’s petition.