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New Hampshire AG ‘carefully reviewing’ challenge to Trump on ballot

By: - August 30, 2023 8:46 am

Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming (Chet Strange/Getty Images).

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is “carefully reviewing” whether former President Donald Trump can run as a presidential candidate in the state, after a New Hampshire Republican argued Trump’s role in encouraging the Jan. 6 protests that turned into an insurrection bars him from seeking office under the U.S. Constitution.

In a joint statement Tuesday afternoon following days of heated public discussion and a potential lawsuit, Attorney General John Formella and Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said the state’s Department of Justice was examining the issue.

“The Secretary of State’s Office has requested the Attorney General’s Office to advise the Secretary of State regarding the meaning of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the provision’s potential applicability to the upcoming presidential election cycle,” the statement reads in part.

“The Attorney General’s Office is now carefully reviewing the legal issues involved.”

The confusion arose after a group of conservative lawyers penned an article earlier this month arguing that the 14th Amendment precludes Trump from running for re-election.

Section 3 of that amendment reads: “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 Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

The legal scholars have argued that Trump’s involvement in promoting the protest event that turned into a riot in the U.S. Capitol – for which he is facing four federal criminal charges – qualifies as his having “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, thus disqualifying him.

In an Aug. 22 radio interview, Corky Messner, a prominent New Hampshire Republican, cited that legal analysis and said he agreed that Trump was disqualified, the Boston Globe reported. Messner ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and secured Trump’s endorsement at the time.

Messner has since told WMUR that he is weighing a legal challenge to prevent Trump from appearing on the ballot, and that he was considering financing the effort himself.

The proposal prompted a flurry of calls Monday from supporters of Trump to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office, NBC News reported.

Scanlan has said he is looking into the proposal. But on Tuesday, he and Formella pushed back on the perception that they had decided to bar Trump from the ballot.

“Neither the Secretary of State’s Office nor the Attorney General’s Office has taken any position regarding the potential applicability of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to the upcoming presidential election cycle,” the statement reads.

This story was originally published by the New Hampshire Bulletin, a States Newsroom affiliate. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel. Email: [email protected]

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