Trump lawyers move 'insurrection' clause lawsuit aiming to bar him from the ballot to federal court

FILE - Former President Donald Trump visits with campaign volunteers at the Elks Lodge, July 18, 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

DENVER (AP) — Attorneys for former President Donald Trump moved a lawsuit seeking to bar him from running again for the White House from state to federal court in the first step of what promises to be a tangled legal battle that seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the initial lawsuit on Wednesday in Colorado state court, arguing a Civil War-era clause prohibiting higher office for those who once swore an oath to the Constitution and then engaged in “insurrection” prevents Trump from running in 2024.

The initial state judge in Denver assigned the case recused himself for an unspecified conflict of interest, and then Trump’s attorneys on Thursday moved the case to federal court — asserting that the matter should be adjudicated at the federal level since it raises a constitutional issue. The plaintiffs in the case will argue it should first go back to state court, but both sides anticipate that ultimately the top echelons of the federal system will have to consider the issues the lawsuit raises.

“Plaintiffs’ challenge to Colorado’s ability to place Donald Trump on the presidential ballot depends solely on the Fourteenth Amendment,” Trump's lawyers wrote. “Trump’s basis for removal of the state court action is federal question jurisdiction under Section 3 of Fourteenth Amendment.”

CREW's case is the first of what's expected to be many challenges filed in various states by the group and Free Speech for People, another liberal nonprofit. Activists in other states have filed lawsuits in which they represent themselves, but legal observers contend the more robust complaints by the nonprofits are more likely to end up at the nation's highest court, which has never ruled on the clause.

Trump on Friday slammed the liberal organization, contending it's affiliated with a number of his critics and people with whom he clashed as president. He called the group “TRUMP DERANGED CREW” on his social media network Truth Social said it was “ridiculously” and “Unconstitutionally” trying to disqualify him

CREW said it will ask a federal judge to return the case to state court. It has also requested a speedy ruling on the issues before Colorado’s Republican primary ballot is finalized on Jan. 5.