Trump opposes legal effort to bar him from 2024 Oregon ballots


As courts and elections officials in multiple states reached different decisions about the legality of blocking former President Donald Trump from their states’ ballots this week, a group attempting to keep the Republican front-runner off Oregon’s in 2024 awaits state Supreme Court action on the same question.

Trump has now inserted himself into the Oregon legal battle, which his opponents initiated before the high court early this month. On Friday, his team of lawyers filed a 162-page brief, citing numerous Oregon legal precedents they say should clear his path to the ballot.

Free Speech for People, a national nonprofit that advocates for election fairness and voters rights, appealed a preliminary decision against it by the Oregon secretary of state to the state Supreme Court.

In the complaint, the group cited the 14th Amendment and Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that, “having sworn an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, (Trump) has ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof’ and is therefore disqualified from public office.”

It is that same obscure provision of the U.S. Constitution, enacted in the wake of the Civil War, that caused the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s secretary of state to rule this week that Trump cannot appear on their states’ presidential primary ballots – but California’s elections chief to rule Friday that he can.

The question will all but certainly land before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal experts say.

The case before the Oregon Supreme Court came in response to a Nov. 30 decision by Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, a Democratic appointee, that she would not remove Trump from the state’s May 2024 primary ballot. She did not mention the general election in her announcement.

“Oregon law does not give me the authority to determine the qualifications of candidates in a presidential primary,” Griffin-Valade said at the time. “I will follow our usual process and expect to put Donald Trump on the primary ballot unless a court directs me otherwise.”

Free Speech for People retained two high profile Oregon lawyers, Dan Meek and Jason Kafoury, to lead its petition. On Dec. 15, Meek asked the Oregon Supreme Court to rule on whether Trump should be barred from the state’s general election ballot, court documents show.

According to Meek, there is a stronger legal case to remove Trump from Oregon’s general election ballot than the primary ballot. That’s because Oregon law requires candidates to swear that they are qualified to enter office after they win the election, not beforehand – meaning the 14th Amendment is not applicable to a primary election because it does not choose the president, Meek said.

“Even if you win the Oregon primary, that doesn’t mean that you’re nominated,” Meek told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “And it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re elected. So it’s several steps away from what the 14th Amendment says (when) it says you cannot serve in office.”

In their lengthy brief filed Friday, Trump and his legal team primarily argue, as Meek concedes, that Oregon officials have no right to decide who is qualified to run in the state’s presidential primaries.

His team also asserts, however, that while “the events of January 6 included serious crimes and violence by others ... they did not amount to an ‘insurrection’ within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. On top of that, President Trump did nothing to ‘engage in’ the riot at the Capitol.”

Last year, a bipartisan committee of the U.S. House of Representatives reported that Trump “refused to accept the lawful result of the 2020 election” and “refused repeated requests over a multiple hour period that he instruct his violent supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol.”

Multiple national political groups have attempted to weigh in on the fight in Oregon. The conservative legal advocacy group Landmark Legal Foundation, which has intervened in several similar challenges in other states, filed a motion requesting permission to submit a brief in favor of Trump. On Friday, the Oregon Supreme Court denied the motion, citing a procedural error.

The Constitutional Accountability Center, a law firm that has filed several similar briefs against Trump in other states, filed a motion requesting permission to submit a brief in opposition of Trump, which the court approved.