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Former Montana Governor and former law professor talk about Trump on ballot

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Posted at 9:29 AM, Feb 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-05 11:29:35-05

Three former Republican governors filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the former president should not be on the ballot in Colorado.

A former University of Montana law professor says former President Donald Trump should be on the ballot and that the voters will make the final decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court is looking at the case that was last heard in Colorado Supreme Court.

It's been 23 years since Mark Racicot has held office in Montana, but the former governor and former Republican National Committee Chair is back in the political spotlight, joining two other former governors from the 1990s and filing an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court.

Racicot along with William Weld of Massachusetts and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, each served as governors in the 1990’s, and filed the brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Racicot believes Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“The 14th amendment which is very plain on its face, says that if you have taken an oath and sworn to defend the Constitution and while in office thereafter betray that oath by engaging in an insurrection, then you are ineligible to run for that office again,” Racicot said.

Justices are considering whether the state of Colorado can remove Trump from the ballot after that state Supreme Court last month ruled Trump was not qualified based on his actions leading up to January 6.

The governors cite the 14th Amendment of the Constitution which states no one can hold federal office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the U.S.”

“The constitution's very plain,” said Racicot. “It's very clear.”

But not everyone agrees with the former governor.

Rob Natelson is a constitutional scholar and former University of Montana law professor and now head of the Independence Institute's Constitutional Studies Center in Colorado.

“I will confess that I haven't always been a great fan of President Trump,” Natelson said. “But like every American, he's entitled to due process.”

Natelson also cites the 14th Amendment, which states “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

"He was not given due process in the first impeachment trial," Natelson said. "He was not given due process in the second impeachment trial, and he was certainly not given due process by the Jan. 6 committee."

"Every aspect of due process, namely being able to be heard, and to hear the evidence against you, and to prove to the contrary, has been offered to the former president," said Racicot.

Natelson argues the Constitution refers more to something such as the American Revolution and Shay’s Rebellion, not what happened on January 6.

“They are talking about actually leading the forces or participating in the forces to overturn the government,” Natelson said. “They're not talking about a speech, such as President Trump gave in which he urged his followers to peacefully and patriotically proceed to the Capitol.”

The two also disagree on the term office, which Racicot says includes the president.

Natelson says at the time when the 14th amendment was adopted, a Supreme Court justice wrote the President was not an officer under the United States.

“The people who, who drafted and ratified the 14th amendment were very familiar with that treatise,” Natelson said. “And so that's a bit of evidence suggesting that the presidency is not an office that can be disqualified under the 14th amendment. “

“He's the supreme officer because he's the chief executive of our government under our constitution,” Racicot said. “So there's literally no realistic or credible allegation or discussion about whether or not he's an officer.”

It's a debate far from over and when that will now be up to the US Supreme Court to decide.

“He cannot pass the qualifications,” Racicot said about Trump. “So he cannot be grant access to the ballot. And if he's not on the ballot, he can't be voted for.”

“When the people all like somebody's president, if there's a charge of insurrection against that person, the people really have heard the charge and made their decision,” Natelson said. “And the people are the highest political authority."