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Judge says Michigan courts cannot bar Trump from ballot

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011.
Gage Skidmore
Wikipedia Media Commons
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011.

A Michigan Court of Claims judge issued an order Tuesday rejecting a request to bar former President Donald Trump from the GOP primary ballot and setting the case on a path to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Judge James Redford issued orders in three separate but related cases. He held the state cannot keep Trump off the ballot – only Congress can do that – and courts have no say in the decision because it’s a political question.

He said the cases would have to resolve thorny questions as ballot deadlines loom. One of the cases challenges Trump’s eligibility on constitutional grounds under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause as ballot deadlines loom.

“What is an insurrection or rebellion?” he wrote. “What is it to engage in it to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Constitution?”

Redford declined to make a ruling on whether Trump is eligible to appear on the November ballot. He said the issue is “not ripe” because Trump is not the GOP nominee for president.

The plaintiffs are registered voters, including some former Michigan Republican officials.

Mark Brewer is the plaintiffs’ attorney. He said the judge ignored the substance of their complaint in favor of a narrow – and wrong, according to Brewer – interpretation of process.

Brewer said the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause, although not applied since the Reconstruction era, renders Trump ineligible because of his role in the January 6 insurrection.

“The constitution says if you engage or lead, participate in a rebellion or insurrection, which Trump clearly did, you cannot serve in public office in the United States ever again,” Brewer told Michigan Public Radio. “And that law applies to former presidents. Nobody is above the law.”

Brewer said the decision will be appealed and he will ask for a bypass, so it would go directly to the Michigan Supreme Court. There are similar challenges underway in other states.

In a statement, the Trump campaign welcomed the ruling.

“Each and every one of these ridiculous cases have LOST because they are all un-Constitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign seeking to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president,” said Trump spokesman Steven Cheung.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson released a preliminary list of names to appear on the state’s GOP presidential primary ballot. Trump’s name is on the ballot, along with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and pharmaceutical entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Benson has said state law does not give her the authority to remove a name from the primary ballot list without a court order.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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