The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has asked the Justice Department to charge former President Donald Trump with inciting or aiding an insurrection. But even absent a criminal conviction, Trump’s actions to incite insurrection or aid those engaged in insurrection, as laid out by the committee, trigger the Constitution’s disqualification clause. The committee’s recommendations make it clear its members believe the evidence supports barring Trump from holding future public office.
As president of the United States, the committee found, Donald Trump incited a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to subvert the will of the American people. Unable to accept defeat in a free and fair election, Trump sought to overturn its results.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
Get a roundup of POGO's latest work and announcements. Delivered Saturday mornings.
The American system of government relies on a system of checks and balances to ensure that leaders cannot abuse their power without facing consequences. Trump must face consequences for inciting violence, stoking an insurrection, and threatening the peaceful transfer of power. Donald Trump betrayed his oath to the Constitution. His actions related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection exposed troubling cracks in our democracy. If he returns to the White House, he could further damage the government institutions established to protect and serve the American people.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states that government officials who engage in insurrection or rebellion against the nation whose Constitution they swore to uphold cannot hold office again. While the amendment was ratified after the Civil War, it can clearly be applied to those who seek office today.
The evidence the January 6 committee has compiled and presented to the public so far is stunning, and in their decision to refer Trump for prosecution for aiding an insurrection, the committee members have clearly signaled that the former president should be disqualified from holding office again.
Now, officials can and must use their constitutional authority to prevent Trump from returning to the White House.
While the processes for enforcing the Constitution’s disqualification clause differ by state, the mechanisms to enforce the clause are already in place. Several states have processes to prevent disqualified individuals from making it onto the ballot. Many others have processes allowing a challenger to petition the state to find that an individual is not qualified to hold federal office. Some states even allow for legal challenges to a candidate’s eligibility to appear on the ballot.
The process to remove Trump from state ballots should ideally take place before a primary, so it’s now on the states to act quickly to enforce the Constitution.
The January 6, 2021, insurrection was the deadly result of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. And it’s clear we can expect more abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law if he returns to office. Years after the insurrection, Trump is still pushing dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Just this month, he suggested “the termination of all rules … even those found in the Constitution” to overturn the results of a free and fair election.
American democracy hangs in the balance. We must take every possible precaution to prevent Donald Trump from further degrading our system of government. The Constitution demands that officials who betray their oaths to engage in insurrection be disqualified from office — it is essential to follow through. Trump has already betrayed his oath of office once; he should be barred from office, not given a chance to betray it again.