(Bloomberg) -- State election officials should decide whether Donald Trump is barred from serving a second term as president for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday.
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Hutchinson, a long-shot rival to Trump for the Republican nomination, told Bloomberg Radio that the party risks picking someone who can’t appear on the ballot and can’t serve because of the 14th Amendment. That provision bars candidates who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from serving if they previously took an oath to defend the Constitution.
“The bottom line is, this would be the Democrats’ dream scenario, that we nominate somebody at the convention that will later be determined by the courts to be ineligible to hold office,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson’s comments echo a legal theory gaining traction among some scholars that the 14th Amendment — which was adopted after the Civil War to bar former Confederate officers from serving in government — would block Trump from returning to office.
That provision could be enforced by secretaries of state — often the chief elections officer in each state — by determining that Trump doesn’t meet the constitutional qualifications, Hutchinson said. Those officials are already responsible for determining whether a candidate meets other qualifications, like the Constitution’s minimum age requirement of 35.
But Hutchinson told Bloomberg Radio that he wouldn’t personally spearhead the effort to disqualify Trump. “I don’t need to, and I would not want to,” he said. “I made my case. I think it’s important for the public, for Republican voters, to understand this risk, and it should be a factor.”
Still, any move to block Trump from the ballot would spark another legal front for Trump as he fights four criminal indictments.
The Trump campaign said the 14th Amendment talk was a sign of desperation from “Joe Biden, Democrats, and Never Trumpers.”
“The people who are pursuing this absurd conspiracy theory and political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition much like the political prosecutors in New York, Georgia, and DC,” said Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung. “There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it.”
Hutchinson provided a moment of tension in last week’s GOP debate when he refused to say that he would support Trump as the party’s nominee if the former president is convicted of a crime.
Now, Hutchinson is under pressure to qualify for the second debate next month, since the Republican National Committee is increasing the thresholds to make the stage to 50,000 unique donors from 40,000, and to 3% support in at least three eligible polls from 1%.
Hutchinson had 42,000 donors to qualify for the first debate but is polling at 0.7% in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls.
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