Trump Faces Supreme Court Case He Can't Afford to Lose

Donald Trump will soon hear whether the Supreme Court will take up a case challenging his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race and seriously threaten his efforts to get back to the White House.

In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to decide on John Castro v. Donald Trump, a case brought by a long-shot Republican candidate running against the former president that asks the justices to disqualify Trump from running based on the 14th Amendment. The justices have until October 9 to make their decision.

Castro is arguing that because he and Trump are appealing to the same voters and donors, Trump's candidacy—which he argues is unconstitutional because of Trump's involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot—would cause him "political competitive" injuries.

The disqualification clause in the 14th Amendment blocks individuals from holding public office if they have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the United States. Trump has not been charged with insurrection, although he has been indicted in a federal case involving his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

If Trump is kicked off the ballot in any key state, it would likely doom his chances of winning in 2024.

"If SCOTUS [the Supreme Court] rules in my favor, his name cannot appear on the ballot in *any* state because the Constitution's election clause giving states power over elections only applies to congressional races," Castro told Newsweek. "It would be a nationwide permanent injunction against all state election officials to keep his name off the ballots and not count any of his write-in votes."

Trump Supreme Court 2024
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a Farmers for Trump campaign event on July 7 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it will take up John Castro v. Donald Trump, a case brought by a long-shot 2024 GOP candidate. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Castro has filed federal lawsuits in at least 14 states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. He also intends to file in blue states like Massachusetts, "side-stepping red circuits [and neutralizing] their influence."

"Unfortunately, it's all or nothing," Castro said. "SCOTUS is the only body that can give a final answer as to all 50 states."

Michael McAuliffe, a former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney, told Newsweek that Castro's case could be the first one involving the 14th Amendment's disqualification clause that has reached the Supreme Court in any deliberative way.

"However, the mere fact that the justices set this particular matter for an initial conference should not be relied upon to speculate about the Court's ultimate view of the issue," McAuliffe said. "Caution is the word that should be applied to the matter and issue at this stage."

Another 14th Amendment lawsuit against Trump's candidacy has been filed in Colorado by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington D.C.-based watchdog group. CREW said the case was brought in the Centennial State because of the state's laws, calendar and the plaintiffs and witnesses it was able to center the case around. But CREW also plans to bring other lawsuits in other states.

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung previously blasted the legal challenges in a Newsweek story. "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 D.C."

He added: "There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it."

Trump himself has likened the constitutional argument to "election interference," calling it "just another 'trick' being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election."

McAuliffe said the Supreme Court will likely be addressing whether Castro's case has any standing when it decides on the matter in a couple of weeks, rather than the actual argument about the 14th Amendment.

"Standing is a basic threshold issue and will be the subject of the Court's upcoming conference discussion," he said. "The Court might even in the end dismiss the petition based on the procedural posture of the case."

Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani said that even if it's just legal standing that the Supreme Court sides with Castro on, such a ruling would "clear an important legal hurdle."

"Previous challengers were ruled to lack standing, and it's unclear who has standing to raise these arguments: the legislature, election officials or other candidates," Rahmani told Newsweek.

"The justices wouldn't address the merits of whether Trump participated in an insurrection or rebellion until the lower courts do, but the standing issue is an important first step in the process," he said.

Update 9/15/23, 12:22 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comments from Neama Rahmani.

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