CNN legal expert rips Maine ruling to remove Trump from ballot: Would ‘never pass’ muster in ‘normal court’


CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig ripped Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ decision to remove former President Trump from the state’s primary ballot, claiming it was based on evidence that would “never pass the bar in normal court.”

Honig made his comments on “Anderson Cooper 360” Thursday night, arguing that the main problem with her decision to bar Trump from the ballot is that it is not certain that he engaged in “insurrection” under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The Maine secretary of state invoked that section of the U.S. Constitution on Thursday as the premise for declaring that Trump is disqualified from the ballot. Her decision came after state residents and a bipartisan group of former lawmakers challenged Trump’s place on the ballot.

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CNN legal analyst Elie Honig criticized Maine’s secretary of state for her decision to remove former President Trump from the states primary ballot. (Screenshot/CNN)

Guest host John Berman prompted Honig’s criticism, saying, “The 14th Amendment, Section 3 says in plain text that if you shall have engaged in insurrection, you can’t be in office. She takes that to mean that if she determines that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection he can’t be on the Maine primary ballot. Is it that simple?”

“No, it’s not that simple,” the legal analyst replied, adding, “So clearly, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says, ‘Engage in insurrection, you’re out.’ We all have that. The complicated part, and where we are going to see this play out in the courts, is who gets to decide and by what process.”

Bellows’ decision comes days after the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified (and later reinstated after a Colorado GOP appeal) Trump by invoking the 14th Amendment. Honig stated that the Maine official followed “the same legal reasoning as the Colorado Supreme Court did last week,” noting that “she says in her ruling if this gets struck down in Colorado, we’re out of luck, too. So, she’s basing it on the same legal argument.”

Honig then criticized the decision, prefacing his points by declaring, “We’re all theorizing here. We’re in legally unknown territory.”

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Donald Trump

Maine’s secretary of state had former President Trump removed from the state’s 2024 primary ballot this week. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

He continued, stating, “And I think there’s a question there with regard to what Maine did, because if you look at the hearing, and she details this in the ruling, they heard from one fact witness, a law professor. She based her ruling on a lot of documents, but also YouTube clips, news reports, things that would never pass the bar in normal court.”

Honig added, “She’s not a lawyer, by the way,” though he praised Bellows’ work as a “smartly written decision” for which she “clearly consulted with lawyers.”

Still, he said, “but this is an unelected – she’s chosen by the state legislature. Chosen, elected by the legislature, but not democratically elected – not a knock, that’s just the way it’s set up in Maine.”

The analyst also characterized the argument from the decision’s opponents, saying, “One, not up to the states to do this – this is why we have all different decisions from all different states; and two, the procedures were not up to snuff.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Honig admitted to Berman that Maine’s decision makes “it even more likely” that the U.S. Supreme Court will step in to give a ruling on the issue.

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