Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives to address the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on Sept. 15, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
A New Jersey man has filed a lawsuit with the New Jersey Superior Court, seeking to keep former President Donald Trump off of the state’s election ballots in 2024.
Plaintiff John Bellocchio filed a 105-page lawsuit last week, arguing that the former president should be denied ballot access. Mr. Bellocchio centered his legal arguments on an interpretation of Section Three of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Section Three of the 14th Amendment specifically states that any official who has participated in or “given aid or comfort” to an act of insurrection or rebellion after having previously taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, shall be disqualified from holding public office in the future. Mr. Bellocchio’s lawsuit argues that President Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and his alleged role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted an act of insurrection or rebellion that should disqualify him from public office going forward.
Mr. Bellocchio’s complaint argues that the 14th Amendment disqualification process “does not require previous conviction, or even charging, of any criminal offense” against President Trump to keep him off of New Jersey’s Republican primary and general election ballots.
In an interview with NTD News, Mr. Bellocchio said President Trump’s efforts to contest the election results in a legal venue do not meet the “insurrection” threshold on their own. Instead, his lawsuit argues President Trump combined his legal challenges with false claims of election fraud and riled up his base to gather in Washington D.C. as Congress went about the process to certify the 2020 election results for Joe Biden.
Mr. Bellocchio’s complaint states that President Trump “knew that these supporters were angry and that many were armed” and yet he “incited them to a violent insurrection and instructed them to march to the Capitol to ‘take back’ their country.” His supporters then entered the Capitol and disrupted the election certification process.
Throughout the legal complaint, Mr. Bellocchio cited the comments of U.S. lawmakers, Department of Justice officials, and federal judges who described the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection” to bolster his argument that President Trump’s actions meet the threshold to be disqualified from holding public office under the 14th Amendment.
NTD News reached out to the Trump campaign for comment but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.
Lawsuit About ‘Stopping a Movement’: Bellocchio
Mr. Bellocchio identified himself as politically unaffiliated and said he had supported Democrats as well as Republicans in past presidential elections.
He told NTD News that this lawsuit is not just about disqualifying President Trump from returning to the White House, but also about “stopping a movement” within the Republican Party that includes the likes of Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“This is about stopping a movement filled with people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and like Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis,” Mr. Bellocchio said. “I don’t believe those folks are Republican. They’re sort of some new theocratic party that’s running as Republican.”
He said Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush represent the model of Republican politician he can support.
Mr. Bellocchio specifically took issue with a bill Mr. DeSantis supported last year, dubbed by its sponsors as the “Parental Rights in Education” act, but which Mr. Bellocchio called the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
Mr. Bellocchio also condemned Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) for stalling military promotions and nominations as a means to compel the Department of Defense to retract a policy that compensates abortion-related travel.
He also took issue with some Republicans for their “unbelievable and unmitigated ridiculous criticism of Black Lives Matter as a terrorist movement during the George Floyd riots that happened in America.”
State Election Chiefs Wary of 14th Amendment Arguments
Talk of disqualifying President Trump from returning to the White House has grown in recent weeks.
In an Aug. 19 article in The Atlantic, liberal law professor Laurence Tribe and the more conservative legal scholar J. Michael Luttig argued that the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause requires no specific conviction and that President Trump’s actions after the 2020 election should easily disqualify him from seeking public office in the future.
“The disqualification clause operates independently of any such criminal proceedings and, indeed, also independently of impeachment proceedings and of congressional legislation,” Mr. Tribe and Mr. Luttig wrote. “The clause was designed to operate directly and immediately upon those who betray their oaths to the Constitution, whether by taking up arms to overturn our government or by waging war on our government by attempting to overturn a presidential election through a bloodless coup.
“The former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the resulting attack on the U.S. Capitol, place him squarely within the ambit of the disqualification clause, and he is therefore ineligible to serve as president ever again.”
But election officials in some states have expressed doubts about the viability of this legal strategy.
Citing a prior ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court, Democrat Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said he would be unable to enforce an effort to disqualify President Trump on 14th Amendment grounds.
“The Arizona Supreme Court said that because there’s no statutory process in federal law to enforce Section 3 of the 14th amendment, you can’t enforce it,” Mr. Fontes said. “That’s what the Arizona Supreme Court said. That’s the state of the law in Arizona.”
Mr. Fontes said he disagreed with the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling but said “the law in Arizona is what the law in Arizona is. Whether I like it or not, is irrelevant.”
Earlier this month, Republican New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan also concluded that there’s no clear statute within his state’s laws that could allow him to disqualify a primary candidate on 14th Amendment grounds.
Mr. Bellocchio conceded that the elections officials who are disputing the 14th Amendment grounds to disqualify President Trump from future ballots “may actually be right” but said his lawsuit sets the stage for a court to rule explicitly one way or the other.
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