Closing arguments over, decision expected soon in Trump disqualification case

Sean Grimsley
Sean Grimsley, attorney for the petitioners, questions a witness during a hearing for a lawsuit to keep former President Donald Trump off the state ballot in court Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, Pool)

Attorneys on both sides delivered their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon in the hearing seeking to ban former President Donald Trump from Colorado’s primary election ballot.

In the week and a half since Colorado’s hearing started, similar cases were dismissed in Minnesota and Michigan.

But the other judges didn’t rule on the underlying legal question: whether Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6th, violating the oath he swore to the constitution, and so is ineligible to hold office again under the 14th Amendment. 

Instead the courts found that it was premature to make a decision on access for the primary ballot, since those are the purview of state parties. In the Michigan case, the judge also said the larger issue should ultimately be decided by Congress.

In its closing arguments, the Colorado Republican Party urged the judge be guided at those other cases. Their lawyer argued that Colorado’s election laws are analogous to those in Michigan and Minnesota and said the Colorado Secretary of State doesn’t get to decide which candidates appear on a party’s primary election ballot. 

“It is the political party that's vested with the power to determine its bonafide candidate, not the Secretary.” 

Meanwhile Trump’s lead attorney, Republican former secretary of state Scott Gessler, focused his argument on disputing the idea that Trump incited an insurrection. 

“The violence began well before President Trump finished his speech. So it's difficult to see how the January 6th speech caused this,” said Gessler.

He said Trump had no intent for his supporters to turn violent; “The most one can discern is that he pressured, and he wanted other people to pressure, Vice President Pence to send the electoral count back to the states for ten days.”

Gessler also dismissed the petitioners’ argument that Trump had a direct relationship with groups on the far right. 

“That's — at best — unrequited love on behalf of the far right-wing extremists, who may like President Trump, may be inspired by President Trump. But there's no evidence that it ever went the other way. And to call that a 'relationship' is like calling a stalker and their victim having a relationship. It is just wrong.” 

On the side of the petitioners, attorney Sean Grimsley said the evidence of Trump’s intentions in trying to prevent the electoral count is overwhelming and that as president of the United States he engaged in insurrection against the Constitution. 

“He spearheaded a multifaceted scheme to stay in power by any means necessary. The scheme culminated in a violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th during the constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes and now he wants to be president again. The constitution does not allow that.”

Grimsely said Trump summoned a mob to the U.S capitol in a campaign that began well before the election, when he began telling supporters that the only way he would lose was “if it’s stolen.”  

“Through his actions and his actions alone, Donald Trump has disqualified himself from ever holding office again,” said Grimsely.

At the conclusion of closing arguments, Judge Sarah Wallace thanked the parties for their professionalism and ended the proceedings. She plans to release her decision Friday.