Sen. Mike Lee ‘confident’ Supreme Court will keep Donald Trump on the ballot

Lee and Reps. John Curtis and Burgess Owens joined more than 170 congressional Republicans in signing a brief to the Supreme Court arguing Trump shouldn’t be banned from ballots.

(Doug Mills | The New York Times) Former President Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, at a campaign rally in Portsmouth, N.H., Jan. 17, 2024.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. John Curtis and Burgess Owens signed onto a Supreme Court filing arguing former President Donald Trump cannot be removed from the 2024 ballot in Colorado under the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment. The Utah Republicans are among 170 Republican members of Congress who signed onto the amicus brief.

Lee and Owens are two of the most ardent Trump supporters among Utah’s members of Congress. Owens endorsed Trump’s 2024 candidacy last August. Lee’s stamp of approval for Trump came earlier this month, right before the Iowa Caucuses.

Curtis has been much more circumspect about backing Trump, but said he plans to support the Republican presidential nominee this year no matter who that turns out to be.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. John Curtis who is running to replace Mitt Romney in the Senate, gives a thumbs up after filing his paperwork to run on Wednesday morning, Jan. 3, 2024 at the Utah State Capitol.

Colorado disqualified Trump from the GOP primary ballot in December, ruling his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection barred him from running for office. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits anyone who has “engaged in insurrection” from holding elected office. Trump has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on Feb. 8.

At the time, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, the state’s top election official, said Colorado’s ruling would not directly impact the presidential nominating process in the Beehive State. Utah Republicans will host a caucus on Super Tuesday, March 5.

The brief argues Congress must authorize any disqualification under the 14th Amendment and the Colorado ruling “intrudes” on congressional power. The 14th Amendment specifies that a two-thirds vote by Congress can reverse any disqualification but does not say anything about requiring congressional approval to bar an insurrectionist from office.

The filing also alleges that allowing the Colorado disqualification to stand would “supercharge state officials to conjure bases for labeling political opponents as having engaged in insurrection.”

“Senator Lee is confident that the Supreme Court will agree that individual states cannot remove candidates from the ballot based on unilateral decisions by politically motivated judges,” Billy Gribbin, spokesperson for Sen. Lee, said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Lee has repeatedly argued on his personal social media channels that the 14th Amendment cannot be used to disqualify Trump from the ballot.

Curtis and Owens explained they signed onto the document because they believe the Colorado Supreme Court does not have the authority to keep Trump off the ballot.

“This ruling is about much more than the former president. Americans voting at the ballot box should decide our next president, not state courts with novel political theories,” Curtis said in a statement provided by his office. “I believe this election should be about the issues important to Utahns and all Americans, not attempts to disqualify political opponents.”

“At the heart of our democracy lies a fundamental freedom granted to American citizens – the right to vote,” said Owens in an email to The Tribune. “This cornerstone of our democracy is currently under attack as the Colorado Supreme Court attempts to bar the appearance of former President Trump, President Biden’s political opponent, on the ballot. Make no mistake: this is an unconstitutional challenge to the integrity of our electoral process that sets a dangerous precedent for the future, and it will not stand.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Reps. Blake Moore and Celeste Maloy did not sign on to the document.