Donald Trump may have boasted at a weekend rally about a judge’s ruling against a bid to ban him from Colorado’s primary ballot in the 2024 election.
But Obama-era acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks have suggested how the decision could actually be seriously bad news for the former president.
Colorado state District Judge Sarah B. Wallace on Friday ruled Trump engaged in insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. But she ruled against an effort to nix Trump’s name from the state’s ballot, citing a lack of clarity over whether the constitutional amendment that stops insurrectionists from holding public office actually applies to the highest office of the land, the presidency.
Katyal wasn’t buying it.
“If I were to put the headline on Friday night, as an appeals lawyer, it would be: This is the very worst decision Donald Trump could get from the trial court,” the former Department of Justice official told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki on Sunday. “Because it’s going to go on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, and there, Trump is going to face extreme headwinds.”
Katyal noted the difference between the “factual finding” that Wallace said Trump committed insurrection and the “legal part” of her ruling that it doesn’t apply to the presidency.
On appeal, “the factual findings get massive deference by the appeals court” as “it’s almost impossible to overturn a trial judge’s factual finding,” he said. The legal findings can be overturned, Katyal explained, because “that’s basically a fresh look at the legal thing.”
But in this case, Wallace “factually made devastating findings against Trump and then looked at this legal technicality, which is the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the office of the president, which is so weak, even the judge themselves admitted that this would be preposterous.”
During a different interview on MSNBC, former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks made a similar argument.
The judge’s decision is “wrong on the law,” she said.
“Of course, on the facts she is right, and she made a factual finding that he is insurrectionist,” Wine-Banks added. “And that would bar him if he were an officer. And I believe that any higher court will find that it was the intent to bar such a person from holding the office of president and that he will be barred.”