From coast to coast, Republican politicians are breathing a sigh of relief. Even though most of them won’t say it publicly, it’s no secret that, privately, many Republicans don’t really want former President Trump to be their party’s nominee in 2024. They’re just hoping he’ll somehow go away.
Why? Because they know they can’t win with him at the top of the ticket. He’s got too much baggage. As commentator Keith Boykin adds it up, that includes (so far): 91 criminal charges; 26 sexual assault allegations; six bankruptcies; five draft deferments; two impeachments; one convicted company; one fake university shut down; one fake charity shut down; a $25 million fraud settlement; a $5 million sexual abuse verdict; and a $2 million charity abuse judgment.
But for Republicans the dilemma has been, short of a prison term, how were they going to move beyond Trump without totally alienating his loyal base — or, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls them, Trump’s “listless vessels”? For months, they’ve been secretly looking for some way to dump Trump without leaving any fingerprints of their own.
Suddenly — notice the big smiles on their faces — they’ve found the answer. It’s their own “deus ex machina.” Now riding to the rescue of Republicans as the way to sideline Trump once and for all is the 14th Amendment.
One of three Reconstruction-era amendments adopted three years after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment is best known for Section One, which guarantees due process and equal rights to all American citizens and became the foundation for the civil rights movement. But what’s more relevant today, and the issue with Trump, is Section Three — which bans anyone who ever tried to overthrow the government from running for public office again.
Clearly, the post-Civil War Congress did not want Confederate leaders who started the Civil War to sneak back into office and try it all over again. So, they slammed that door shut in unmistakable language, barring anyone from public office, including the presidency, who, “having previously taken an oath…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.”
In the last week, several leading constitutional scholars have pointed out that that language blocks Trump from regaining the Oval Office. In the Atlantic magazine, liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and conservative former federal judge J. Michael Luttig conclude: “The former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the resulting attack on the U.S. Capitol, place him squarely within the ambit of the disqualification clause, and he is therefore ineligible to serve as president ever again.”
Writing in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, law professors William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, members of the conservative Federalist Society, agree: “In our view, on the basis of the public record, former President Donald J. Trump is constitutionally disqualified from again being President (or holding any other covered office) because of his role in the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election and the events leading to the January 6 attack.”
The language is so clear, not even today’s conservative Supreme Court could read the Constitution any other way. Trump is not only unfit to be president, but he is also constitutionally prohibited from holding that office. Period.
For leaders of the Republican Party, the next step is clear. Follow the 14th Amendment. It’s time to stop entertaining Donald Trump and find another candidate.
Press hosts “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”
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