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Trump appeals Colorado ballot ruling

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump is headed to the Supreme Court. This afternoon, lawyers for Trump asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether he can be disqualified from the primary ballot in Colorado. This move after Colorado's highest court barred him because of his actions related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is all over the legal issues at stake. She is with us now to talk them through. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: OK, what is the former president asking the Supreme Court to do?

JOHNSON: Donald Trump says this is the first time in American history that judges have prevented voters from casting their ballots for the leading candidate in a presidential election. He says this is of paramount importance. He wants the Supreme Court to quickly reverse the Colorado court and keep him on the primary ballot in that state. Trump is basically arguing Congress should decide who's eligible to run for president, and that these judges in the state are taking power away from Congress and disenfranchising millions of voters.

KELLY: And meanwhile, Colorado is one of more than a dozen states that have been considering legal challenges to Trump based on the 14th Amendment. Just remind us the key legal issue here.

JOHNSON: Yeah. The key issue revolves around the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to keep Confederates from returning to government. The provision says people who held office and took an oath and then engaged in insurrection should be disqualified. So far, Trump has been disqualified in Colorado and in Maine. Other states have ruled on procedural grounds or based on state law to keep him on the ballot for now. But the former president says that central part of the 14th Amendment does not apply to him because he took a different oath of office as president, and because what happened on January 6, 2021, was not an insurrection.

KELLY: So I know you're here to sort through the legal issues, not the politics, but Trump is - he's the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the White House. What's his campaign saying about all this?

JOHNSON: A spokesman for the campaign says liberals are allegedly doing all they can to disenfranchise American voters. He says this is an un-American, unconstitutional act of election interference which cannot stand. And they're asking the high court to move very quickly so there can be a free and fair election this November.

KELLY: OK. And the nonprofit group that has been suing to remove Trump from the ballot, they have already asked the Supreme Court, move and move quickly. What is the latest there?

JOHNSON: That group is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. They want to move fast. They say ballots are being printed soon for absentee voters and military service members and Americans who are overseas. CREW says this is about the plain text of the Constitution, and it says the law's on their side. Ultimately, the Supreme Court, including three justices appointed by Donald Trump, will decide whether to make that call.

KELLY: While we've got you, Carrie, there's another case not related to the election, but it is involving Donald Trump. And that one could go to the Supreme Court soon. What's that one about?

JOHNSON: It could. Next week, Trump's lawyers will argue he deserves broad immunity from prosecution before a federal appeals court in Washington. If that court agrees, that would end the felony case against Trump for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump has vowed to appeal that case to the Supreme Court if he loses, which could delay the trial set for March here in Washington, D.C.

KELLY: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.