Trump’s 2024 bid hit with immediate challenge from group behind ‘disqualification clause’ lawsuits

(WASHINGTON) — As Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is running again for the White House, two groups are already working behind the scenes to mount a national push to get elections officials to stop him from being on the ballot because of Jan. 6 — even as similar such efforts have failed against other Republicans.

Free Speech For People and Mi Familia Vota are launching a campaign via to urge secretaries of state and other chief elections officials to bar the former president from running for office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, known as the disqualification clause.

Enacted after the Civil War, the clause blocks any person from holding federal office who has taken an oath to protect the Constitution — including a member of Congress — but who has “engaged in insurrection” against the U.S. or “given aid or comfort” to its “enemies.”

Free Speech For People previously filed challenges against other elected Republicans like Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene, arguing their actions around Jan. 6 and support for overturning the 2020 election results amounted to the disqualifying behavior. Neither Cawthorn nor Greene participated in the rioting, though Cawthorn spoke at a Trump rally beforehand; Greene has said she was a “victim” along with other lawmakers.

Free Speech For People said it intends to file similar legal challenges against Trump but declined to provide more details to ABC News.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong related to Jan. 6. A spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

“I can say that Donald Trump is going to face legal challenges for his eligibility, but he will also face scrutiny from secretaries of state and chief election officials, regardless of whether there will be a legal challenge,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder and president for Free Speech For People. “So, it’s not required that there be a legal challenge for the secretary of state to hold up his or her responsibility and bar Donald Trump from the ballot.”

None of the organization’s past suits have resulted in an elected official being barred from office.

The legal challenge that went the furthest was against Greene, resulting in a hearing at which she testified before an administrative law judge in Georgia ruled that she could stay on the ballot.

Nonetheless, both Free Speech For People and Mi Familia Vota insist that Trump’s actions surrounding the attack on the Capitol last year require a response like the campaign they are launching.

Bonifaz told ABC News that secretaries of state and other chief elections have a “duty” to stop Trump from running for public office under the disqualification clause.

Héctor Sánchez Barba, the executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, told ABC News that the campaign aligns with their organization’s mission “on the frontlines of protecting democracy and making it a better and more inclusive democracy via civic participation.”

There has been only one case where an elected official directly associated with the attack on the Capitol has been stopped from serving in public office on the grounds of the disqualification clause.

A New Mexico federal judge barred Otero County commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin from office, citing the disqualification clause — the only time in 150 years that the provision has been used to disqualify an official and the first time that a court ruled the events of Jan. 6 were an “insurrection.”

In Greene’s case, Judge Charles Beaudrot wrote that the burden of proof was on the challengers and that they “failed to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Beaudrot also wrote in his 19-page opinion that the evidence in the case was insufficient to establish that Greene “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or [gave] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”

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