Trump legal news brief: Michigan Supreme Court allows Trump to remain on primary ballot — but leaves door open for general election challenges

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The Michigan Supreme Court rules that state election law does not prohibit former President Donald Trump from being included on primary ballots there, but the court also makes clear that he could still be excluded from general election ballots. The ruling echoes one by the Minnesota Supreme Court but differs from the decision to kick Trump off the ballot in Colorado. Here’s the latest legal news involving the man who is hoping to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Michigan Supreme Court rules Trump’s name can appear on primary ballots

Key players: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Welch, Colorado Supreme Court, Minnesota Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, Free Speech for People

  • Echoing a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the highest state court in Michigan upheld an appeals court ruling that allows Trump to remain on primary ballots there, but makes clear that plaintiffs can challenge his inclusion on general election ballots, CNN reported.

  • Citing Article 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids those who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding elected office, Free Speech for People had sued to keep Trump off primary ballots in 2024.

  • Unlike Colorado’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Trump had incited the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building and was therefore ineligible to appear on state ballots, Michigan’s Supreme Court dismissed the question on procedural grounds because state law there does not require candidates to “to attest to their legal qualification to hold the office.”

  • But as with the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling, Welch made clear that those seeking to keep Trump’s name from appearing on ballots could try again should he become the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

  • “I would affirm the Court of Appeals’ ruling on this issue, which still allows appellants to renew their legal efforts as to the Michigan general election later in 2024 should Trump become the Republican nominee for President of the United States or seek such office as an independent candidate,” she wrote.

Why it matters: The riot at the Capitol by Trump’s supporters sought to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The question of whether Trump’s role prevents him from holding office will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Tuesday, Dec. 26

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Former President Donald Trump asks a Washington appeals court to scrap special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case against him, claiming he cannot be prosecuted for a crime similar to the one for which he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate during his second impeachment trial. In a social media post, Trump pushes that defense even further, claiming that it was his “duty” to contest his 2020 election loss to Biden. Here’s the latest legal news involving the man who hopes to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Trump asks appeals court to toss election interference charges

Key players: Special counsel Jack Smith, D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Senate, U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Tanya Chutkan

  • On Saturday, Trump’s lawyers filed a brief with the D.C. Circuit asking them to toss Smith’s election interference case on the grounds that the Senate acquitted Trump in February 2021 of “incitement of insurrection” charges, NBC News reported.

  • “The structure of our government, the text of the Constitution and its early commentators, common-law immunity doctrines, our political history, the Supreme Court’s analogous immunity doctrines, and the policy considerations rooted in the separation of powers all dictate that no President, current or former, may be criminally prosecuted for his official acts unless he is first impeached and convicted by the Senate,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

  • “Nor may a President face criminal prosecution based on conduct for which he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate,” they added. “The indictment against President Trump is unlawful and unconstitutional. It must be dismissed.”

  • While a bipartisan majority of the Senate (57-43) voted that Trump was guilty of incitement of insurrection, it fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution to convict him.

  • Smith has charged Trump with four felony counts in the Jan. 6 case, including “conspiracy to defraud the United States” by knowingly spreading false claims about the 2020 election and attempting to overturn legitimate results.

  • On Jan.9, the appeals court is hearing arguments on whether presidential immunity claims protect Trump from prosecution. That decision is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which last week refused a request by Smith to fast-track a ruling on the immunity question.

  • Smith has argued that Trump’s actions were not part of his official duties as president. Chutkan, who is overseeing the Jan. 6 case against Trump, has already ruled that Trump is not protected by presidential immunity.

  • In a potential preview of new defense arguments, Trump attempted once again to reframe his actions to block the certification by Congress of his loss to Biden on Jan. 6.

  • “I was doing my duty as President to expose and further investigate a Rigged and Stolen Election,” Trump wrote.

Why it matters: Most legal experts believe the appeals court will deny Trump’s request to simply dismiss the charges against him and will rule against the former president on the question of presidential immunity, setting up a date with the Supreme Court.

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Trump legal news brief: Michigan Supreme Court allows Trump to remain on primary ballot — but leaves door open for general election challenges

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