Trump’s Team Prepares to File Challenges on Ballot Decisions Soon

Trump’s Team Prepares to File Challenges on Ballot Decisions Soon

Former President Donald J. Trump’s advisers are preparing as soon as Tuesday to file challenges to decisions in Colorado and Maine to disqualify Mr. Trump from the Republican primary ballot because of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In Maine, the challenge to the secretary of state’s decision to block Mr. Trump from the ballot will be filed in a state court. But the Colorado decision, which was made by that state’s highest court, will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to face fresh pressure to weigh in on the issue.

On Thursday, Maine became the second state to keep Mr. Trump off the primary ballot over challenges stemming from Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that any officer of the United States who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution cannot “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

“Every state is different,” Maine’s secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, told a local CBS affiliate on Friday morning. “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. I fulfilled my duty.”

Mr. Trump has privately told some people that he believes the Supreme Court will overwhelmingly rule against the Colorado and Maine decisions, according to a person familiar with what he has said. But he has also been critical of the Supreme Court, to which he appointed three conservative justices, creating a supermajority. The court has generally shown little appetite for Mr. Trump’s election-related cases.

Mr. Trump has expressed concern that the conservative justices will worry about being perceived as “political” and may rule against him, according to a person with direct knowledge of his private comments.

Unlike with the Colorado decision, which caught many on Mr. Trump’s team by surprise, the former president’s advisers had anticipated the Maine outcome for several days. They prepared a statement in advance of the decision and had the bulk of their appeal filing written after the consolidated hearing that Ms. Bellows held on Dec. 15, according to a person close to Mr. Trump.

The people who have filed ballot challenges have generally argued that Mr. Trump incited an insurrection when he encouraged supporters to whom he insisted the election was stolen to march on the Capitol while the 2020 electoral vote was being certified. The former president has been indicted on charges related to the eventual attack on the Capitol, but he has not been criminally charged with “insurrection,” a point his allies have repeatedly made.

On his social media site, Truth Social, Mr. Trump has highlighted commentary from Democrats who have suggested discomfort with the ballot decisions.

In Maine, the move was made unilaterally by Ms. Bellows after challenges were filed. Trump allies have repeatedly highlighted Ms. Bellows’s Democratic Party affiliation and the fact that she is not an elected official, but an appointed one.

The twin decisions have created an uncertain terrain in the Republican nominating contest with elections in the early states set to begin on Jan. 15, with Iowa’s caucuses. Additional ballot challenges may be filed in other states, although so far several have fizzled.

This week, a Wisconsin complaint trying to remove Mr. Trump from the ballot there was dismissed, and the secretary of state in California said Mr. Trump would remain on the ballot in that state. According to the website Lawfare, 14 states have active lawsuits seeking to remove Mr. Trump, with more expected to be filed. A decision is expected soon in a case in Oregon.

The Colorado and Maine decisions require an additional focus of resources and attention for a Trump team that is already spread thin across four criminal indictments in four different states.

But two people close to Mr. Trump, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, described that reality as already baked in for a Trump team that has been focused on legal issues for most of the last two years. They argued that, in the short term, the former president would see political benefits along the lines of what he saw when he was indicted: a rallying effect among Republicans.

Mr. Trump and his team have tried to collapse these cases into a single narrative that Democrats are engaged in a “witch hunt” against him, and they have used the election suits to suggest that Democrats are interfering in an election — an attempt to turn the tables given that Mr. Trump’s monthslong effort to undermine the 2020 election is at the heart of legal and political arguments against him.

“Democrats in blue states are recklessly and un-Constitutionally suspending the civil rights of the American voters by attempting to summarily remove President Trump’s name from ballots,” Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Steven Cheung, said in a statement to The New York Times.

The ballot rulings have become another focus for the mainstream and conservative news media, chewing up time and attention that Mr. Trump’s primary rivals, who trail him by wide margins in polls, need in hopes of catching up.

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who is among those challenging Mr. Trump for the nomination, told CNN that the decision “makes him a martyr,” adding, “He’s very good at playing ‘Poor me, poor me.’ He’s always complaining.”

Because of a number of factors, it is unclear how much of a practical effect the efforts to remove Mr. Trump from primary ballots will have for the Republican nominating contest. In the case of Colorado, where the state’s top court reversed a lower-court ruling and declared Mr. Trump ineligible for the primary, he remains on the ballot while he asks the Supreme Court to intervene.

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