Trump was not convicted yesterday. His attempted coup was excused. Had he been convicted, he would not be able to run for President again in 2024. But his friends protected him, keeping him one vote away from that. One person online that I follow posted a picture of a scoreboard saying, and I quote, “Trump = 2, Libtards = 0.” And they’re already talking of Trump running again (despite him supposedly being sworn in on March 4, as QAnon continues its unholy union with the Sovereign Citizen movement). The whole point of this was to keep Trump from running again. And that just went splat.
So let’s talk turkey here.
The primary goal has been and always shall be to keep the 21st Century’s Benedict Arnold from even thinking about sullying public office again. And guess what? There’s a way. It needs a bit of work, which can be done while Biden has both chambers of Congress under his wing, but it can be done, and it has to be fast.
* rrrrriiiiiiinnnng! * Okay, class. Eyes up front. Today’s lesson — the 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868. Passed during the Reconstruction after the Civil War, it has had probably the greatest impact on American law of any Amendment outside the Bill Of Rights. It contains the Citizenship Clause, which kneecapped the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott case, the Due Process Clause which prevents seizure without fair procedure, the Equal Protection Clause, which has formed the basis for cases such as Brown v Board Of Education in 1954, Roe v Wade in 1973, and Obergefell v Hodges in 2015, which legalized same sex marriages, and the Privileges And Immunities Clause. Most of the struggle to extend the rights of the Constitution to all American citizens instead of just the privileged few began right here, the Square One of civil reform.
So what does this have to do with Trump? Remember how this was done after a war where several states basically committed treason and sedition? Well, this addresses that. In Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, it explicitly states, and I quote, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Enforcement at the start was confusing, but how to deal with it was solidified in 1870 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act (a.k.a. the Enforcement Act, a.k.a. the First Ku Klux Klan Act, because Sections 14 and 15 were intended to keep former Confeds out of public office during the Reconstruction). Section 15 of that act makes it a misdemeanor to run for office if you are ineligible to do so under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. You get up to a year in prison for that. It also allows a federal prosecutor to force someone from office.
Boy, that sounds lovely, doesn’t it? All the current Congress has to do is declare Trump is in violation of Section 3 if he runs in 2024, and all is well, right? But there’s a problem. Section 3 has not been given much of a judicial revue, and has never made it to the Supreme Court.
There are two prominent cases involving Section 3. The first is from 1871 in United States v Powell. Amos S.C. Powell ran for public office, and was indicted under Section 3 because he held “the office of constable” for the Confederacy. The court ruled that that position “rendered those who had held it … engaged in the Rebellion,” and Powell was “ineligible to any office now, by the provisions o the 3d section of the 14th amendment.”
The second case is also the last time Section 3 was actually invoked. It was 1919. Victor Berger was a card-carrying Socialist, and he ran for the House of Representatives. He won, becoming the first Socialist elected to Congress. The House referred him to a special investigative committed, which concluded that, not only had Berger opposed US participation in WWI, but he had also been prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act. The House used this to cite Section 3 and refused to seat him.
Here’s the key part of all this — how it gets implemented is vague at best. If Trump ran in 2024 and Congress hit him with Section 3, he could bring a civil lawsuit. It would definitely get before the Supreme Court, and the results are unpredictable. So Congress needs to take time, right now, to shore up the law for modern times to prevent an enemy of the state from becoming the state again.
If they are serious about healing America, this needs to be on their radar.