Ramaswamy Calls on GOP Rivals to Pledge to Withdraw From Colorado, Maine Ballots After Trump Rulings

The presidential candidate has vowed to withdraw from any primary contest that former President Donald Trump has been disqualified from.
Ramaswamy Calls on GOP Rivals to Pledge to Withdraw From Colorado, Maine Ballots After Trump Rulings
Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks to guests during a campaign stop at AmericInn in Webster City, Iowa, on Dec. 19, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Samantha Flom

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy says his fellow GOP contenders should join him in his pledge to withdraw from the Colorado and Maine primaries if former President Donald Trump is removed from those states’ ballots.

“Any state that unconstitutionally removes one of the candidates, including Donald Trump, from that ballot should be a basis for any other Republican candidate to say, ‘We’re also off that ballot,’” the entrepreneur told “News Nation Prime” on Dec. 31.

“I’ll lead the way. I’ve committed to do that. … and I call on Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie to do the same thing. Their words are cheap; action speaks louder than words.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have all spoken out against efforts to remove President Trump from the ballot. But none, as of yet, has committed to withdrawing their own names from contention in states where he might be barred.

Their unwillingness to take that step, according to Mr. Ramaswamy, makes them “complicit” in efforts to keep the 45th president off the ballot—“even if indirectly.”

The candidate’s comments come on the heels of rulings from the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Democrat Secretary of State Shenna Bellows disqualifying President Trump from their states’ primaries based on their view that he engaged in an “insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021.

Both decisions have been suspended—at least temporarily—by Colorado’s secretary of state and Ms. Bellows herself, pending appeals. But should the former president’s name be removed in any state, Mr. Ramaswamy said he would withdraw his name from contention as well.

“I think that it was deeply unconstitutional and wrong for one individual, a secretary of state, without any trial or procedure or anything else, just to decide and wake up one day and Donald Trump’s not on the ballot. Just as I think it’s wrong for a cabal of judges in Colorado, in a partisan fashion, to do the same thing,” he said.

Describing the move as a form of election interference, he said the rest of the GOP primary field had the ability to negate such efforts by removing their names as well.

“Now, the others have been sidestepping the issue and have been radio silent on it. But if every Republican removes themselves, that nullifies Maine, and it nullifies Colorado.”

Mr. Ramaswamy added that President Trump’s removal from the ballot would benefit his own chances of winning. “But that’s not how any of us should want to win. And to the contrary, that’s a violation of what this country was founded on.”

Constitutional Claims

At the core of the two states’ arguments is an untested interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Disqualification Clause, which was enacted after the Civil War to disqualify Confederate soldiers and sympathizers from holding certain offices.

Specifically, the clause disqualifies those who took an oath of office “as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State” and subsequently “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from membership in Congress or the Electoral College, or holding any federal or state office, “civil or military.”

The clause also specifies that the ineligibility—which also applies to those who have “given aid or comfort to the enemies” of the United States—can be removed by a two-thirds majority of both congressional chambers.

Critics have pointed to the fact that the clause does not expressly mention the presidential office as an indication that it does not apply to that role. Proponents argue that the executive counts as an “officer of the United States.”

Among the latter group is Ms. Bellows, who held that the Constitution “repeatedly refers to the presidency as an office” in her Dec. 28 ruling (pdf).

“At first blush, it would seem odd to interpret the text of Section Three to incorporate the President through a catchall provision that follows the enumeration of Senators, Representatives, and presidential and vice-presidential electors. But none of those enumerated positions are ‘offices’ under the Constitution,” she held. “The Constitution does not refer to Senators and Representatives as such.”

Her argument echoed that of Colorado’s Supreme Court in its Dec. 19 ruling, which has been suspended by Secretary of State Jenna Griswold “unless the U.S. Supreme Court declines to take the case or otherwise affirms the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.”

It noted that [in the mid-1800s], Maryland Sen. Reverdy Johnson, a jurist, had raised the concern that the amendment would not apply to the presidency prior to its adoption.

“[Maine] Senator Lot Morrill fielded this objection. He replied, ‘Let me call the Senator’s attention to the words ‘or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States,’” the court wrote, adding that the explanation satisfied Mr. Johnson.

“This colloquy further supports the view that the drafters of this Amendment intended the phrase ‘any office’ to be broadly inclusive, and certainly to include the Presidency.”

GOP Fights Back

The Colorado GOP has appealed the state court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, holding that the president is not covered by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Disqualification Clause.
“The Constitution makes very clear that the President is not an officer of the United States,” the Colorado Republican State Central Committee argues in its petition (pdf).

“For example, the Commissions Clause states that the President ‘shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.’ If the President is an officer of the United States, then the President commissions himself.”

While the petitioners did not dispute that the presidency could be considered “an office,” they held that the clause in question only pertains to “officers of the United States,” not all officers in general.

They also noted that the president and vice president, unlike the other specified roles, are elected nationally.

“If an electoral majority of the voters determine that they want a certain individual as Chief Executive, regardless of alleged or even actual past transgressions, that is their national choice under the Constitution. In short, the President and his role is different in a way that matters.”

President Trump is also expected to appeal the Colorado decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and Ms. Bellows’s decision to the Maine Superior Court.

Samantha Flom is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering U.S. politics and news. A graduate of Syracuse University, she has a background in journalism and nonprofit communications. Contact her at [email protected].
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