Tim Synder Ridicules Argument that the President is not included in Sec. 3’s Disqualification Ban

Synder, a well-known Yale political scientist, participated in an amicus brief in the case on behalf of academics who study democratic backsliding in other countries. A recent substack post of his illustrates the kind of reaction the Court can expect from some quarters if it holds that Sec. 3 does not include the President. I don’t expect the Court to decide the case on that basis, though I can imagine a separate concurrence on the issue.

From Synder’s substack:

His lawyers (and supporters) depend heavily on the claim that the president of the United States is not an officer of the United States (and therefore not subject to Section 3). 

An argument this bad depends upon fear.  Even in print, it has a wink-wink-nudge-nudge quality — we know this is a horrible legal argument, and you Justices know that this is a horrible legal argument, but we both know that you are just looking for a way out. So here’s your alibi for ignoring the Constitution.

The argument that the president of the United States is not an officer of the United States is risible.  People will laugh at it. A Supreme Court that rules for Trump on that ground will be ridiculed for as long as our republic lasts, and rightly so. …

Twenty-five historians who looked into the matter concluded that Section 3 was meant to apply to the president.  Four more historians in a separate brief drew exactly the same conclusion.  These are the leading scholars of the period and the issues.  The conservative legal scholars who began this discussion concluded that the president is an officer.  Antonin Scalia, a figure of some repute in conservative judicial circles, believed that the president was an officer.  In Trump’s own legal briefs in other matters he also defines the president as an officer.

I cannot say whether the Supreme Court will re-qualify Trump for office.  I can say, though, that requalifying him on the grounds that the president of the United States is not an officer of the United States is preposterous.  It defies the wording of Section 3, and the intentions of its framers, and the way it was understood by society at the time.  It defies the whole historical experience on which Section 3 was based. And it defies Section 3’s political logic of defending the rule of law. 

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