Mar 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

How the Supreme Court's Colorado decision clears Jan. 6 rioters to run for federal office

the West Front of the Capitol and the inauguration stands on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021

The West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Supreme Court's ruling Monday that former President Trump cannot be barred from Colorado's primary ballot under the 14th Amendment has likely opened the door for Jan. 6 rioters to run for federal office.

Why it matters: The potential influx of candidates who participated in an attempt to subvert the peaceful transfer of power comes as many Americans voice low levels of trust in the political system and fears of political violence.

  • The ruling marks the first time the Supreme Court has ruled directly on the application of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause, CBS News reported.

The big picture: Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in a concurring opinion Monday that the ruling went too far in part because of how it could be applied beyond Trump's situation.

  • "The majority attempts to insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office," the justices wrote.
  • Section 3 of the 14th Amendment plays an important role in U.S. democracy, they added, noting that the provision was enacted in the wake of the Civil War to ensure that "those who had participated in that insurrection, and in possible future insurrections, could not return to prominent roles."
  • Instead, the majority's decision Monday will impede efforts in the future to "disqualify a Presidential candidate" under the provision, they wrote.

Zoom out: The scenarios the justices invoke are not farfetched.

  • More than 1,200 people have been charged in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and hundreds have already pleaded guilty.
  • Dozens of people who participated in some way in the events of the Jan. 6 riot ran for office in 2022, Politico reported.
  • In November, the notorious Jan. 6 participant known as the "QAnon Shaman" — who served time in federal prison for his actions during the Capitol riot —announced plans to run for Congress in 2024.

Context: Dozens of states are considering whether Trump can be disqualified from ballots under the 14th Amendment, which states that no one should hold office in the U.S. if they "have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [U.S.], or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

  • Colorado removed Trump from its ballot in December after its state Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause applied to Trump's actions around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
  • Yet Monday's ruling paves the way for Trump to appear on the ballot nationwide — a huge win for the GOP frontrunner.

Go deeper: States look to see if 14th Amendment can be used to disqualify Trump — but it has risks

Go deeper