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Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Presidential Oath and Supporting the Constitution

Asha Rangappa:
You often think that you have heard it all from Trump, or his lawyers, and then you realize you actually haven’t. A lawsuit filed in Colorado challenging Trump’s eligibility to be on the state’s presidential ballot under the Fourteenth Amendment goes to trial on October 30. The case centers around whether the events of January 6 constitute an “insurrection” for purposes of Section 3 of the amendment, which states that:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, 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, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

But Trump’s lawyers are arguing that Section 3 doesn’t apply to Trump, because the presidential oath of office only required him to “protect, preserve, and defend” the Constitution, not “support” it. To quote the movie Dodgeball, it’s a bold strategy, Donnie, let’s see how this plays out.

The argument that Section 3 doesn’t apply to the president has been made before, but typically it’s focused on whether the President is an “officer” for purposes of the amendment, not the wording of the presidential oath. The lawyers who argue that he isn’t an “officer” are in the minority; most constitutional scholars agree that the President is covered by the amendment. As far as the semantic argument, it seems like an uphill battle to me to argue that “protecting,” “preserving,” and “defending” are not forms of “support.” It would be also be absurd to suggest that the President could not support the Constitution and not be in violation of his oath (or, conversely, that he has license to not support it…what?).