“Why a Supreme Court easy out in Trump ballot battle could lead to post-election chaos”

John Fritze and Marshall Cohen for CNN:

When it comes to deciding whether former President Donald Trump should be booted from Colorado’s ballot, the easiest path the Supreme Court could take now may wind up causing the most chaos early next year.

That’s the dire warning from a group of legal experts who fear the court may punt on the biggest question of the blockbuster case challenging Trump’s eligibility for a second term – whether the former president took part in an insurrection – and rule that it’s up to Congress, not states, to enforce the “insurrection ban” included in the 14th Amendment.

In interviews and court documents, legal scholars have used phrases like “catastrophic constitutional crisis,” “political instability” and “horrendously ugly” to caution the justices against taking the easy way out of a dispute they predict could “come back with a vengeance” next year if Trump wins the election.

“This is volatile stuff,” said Gerard Magliocca, law professor at Indiana University and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the ban.

Based on their questions during more than two hours of oral arguments Thursday, a broad majority appeared sympathetic to Trump’s claim that Colorado did not have the authority to remove him.

But that wouldn’t answer the question of whether Congress can decide he’s ineligible to serve.

If the justices decide states cannot enforce the ban – and if Trump wins the general election in November – it could prompt a fight over whether Congress must enforce it. Democratic lawmakers, the theory goes, would challenge Trump’s eligibility when electoral votes are counted next January….

Before arguments took place, some scholars were sounding an alarm about a decision that doesn’t resolve fundamental questions about Trump’s role on January 6, 2021. A brief filed last month by three prominent election law experts warned of a worst-case scenario they said would “fan the flames of public conflict.”

“Even worse for the political stability of the nation is the prospect that Congress may actually vote in favor of his disqualification after he has apparently won election in the Electoral College,” the lawyers wrote. “Neither Mr. Trump nor his supporters, whose votes effectively will have been discarded as void, are likely to take such a declaration lying down.”

And, they wrote, the rules about what happens next if Congress were to find Trump ineligible are “dangerously unclear.”

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