“The political perils of using the 14th Amendment on Trump”

Aaron Blake for WaPo:

To the extent that Democratic secretaries of state and others in the party have entertained the idea of disqualification, it’s been to say that the Supreme Court should decide the issue. (A prominent and Trump-critical Republican secretary of state, Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger, wrote an op-ed last week arguing against the idea.)

There appears to be reason for the caution. It’s dicey territory, historically speaking. But it’s also dicey territory from a raw political standpoint.

Disqualifying Trump from office under the 14th Amendment doesn’t require him to have been criminally convicted of engaging in insurrection or providing aid or comfort. But it’s worth emphasizing that Trump currently faces 91 criminal charges, and inciting the riot and seditious conspiracy aren’t among them. The House Jan. 6 committee cited in its criminal referrals of Trump 18 U.S.C. Section 2383, which closely mirrors the language of the 14th Amendment. But special counsel Jack Smith’s charges against Trump don’t include it.

About the closest thing to being involved in the insurrection Trump is charged with is obstruction of an official proceeding — a charge many Jan. 6 defendants have faced.

There is precedent for conviction even on a lesser offense serving to disqualify a politician under the 14th Amendment — albeit limited precedent. In New Mexico last year, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin became the first officeholder in 150 years to be disqualified. But although he wasn’t convicted of a more serious felony (his charge was trespassing), he was actually present at the insurrection on Jan. 6. That fact separated his disqualification from failed efforts to invoke the 14th Amendment against the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), then-Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and others.

Trump’s proximity to Jan. 6 is certainly more pronounced than either Greene’s or Cawthorn’s. But given that he is facing criminal charges over his efforts to overturn the election, it would seem beneficial for our body politic to have a verdict or at least proceedings that more directly address the specific offenses involved in the 14th Amendment….

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