A federal judge dismissed yet another challenge to former President Donald Trump’s eligibility as a candidate under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, this time in South Carolina ahead of the state’s primary this month.

As a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding President Trump’s eligibility looms overhead, set to be issued in less than one week, President Trump is still litigating several ongoing challenges of this nature in state and federal jurisdictions.

The South Carolina case was one of some 20 brought by John Anthony Castro, a little-known Republican candidate who was recently charged with several tax crimes. According to President Trump’s attorneys, as of early January they had encountered some 60 challenges across at least 30 states.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis found the case to be “without merit.”

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung described it a “stinging defeat.”

“Crooked Joe Biden’s election interference efforts were dealt another stinging defeat in federal court in South Carolina today,” he stated. “The allies of Crooked Joe are desperately flailing in their attempts to deprive the voters of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice, President Donald J. Trump, and we believe a fair ruling by the Supreme Court in the Colorado case will shut down these ‘14th Amendment’ hoaxes once and for all.”

Judge Lewis noted that Mr. Castro had not brought this case until September despite “actively seeking” to disqualify President Trump since 2022, and did not find that Mr. Castro presented serious arguments.

“Indeed, Castro’s delay in bringing this case demonstrates to the Court the relief he seeks is less urgent than he makes it seem,” the Jan. 30 order reads.
On Feb. 2, Mr. Castro appealed the case to a higher court. But the South Carolina primary will be held on Feb. 24, and the issue is likely moot.

In federal courts in about two dozen states, Mr. Castro has argued that to allow President Trump on the ballot when he is allegedly disqualified would “siphon” votes away from other candidates such as himself.

More than one judge has questioned Mr. Castro’s seriousness in running a campaign, ruling that Mr. Castro has not shown that President Trump’s candidacy has caused him any real harm. A federal judge in New Hampshire found that, to the contrary, Mr. Castro’s primary method of campaigning seemed to be implicating President Trump through lawsuits against state election officials.

“To the extent Castro argues Trump will siphon voters from him if he remains a candidate, he has failed to show such harm is anything more than speculative, inasmuch as he has failed to show a likelihood that voters who would otherwise vote for Trump would instead choose to vote for him,” reads the South Carolina order.

Supreme Court Fast-Tracks Case

The high court accepted the case on Jan. 5, and dozens of groups and individuals have since filed 79 amicus briefs urging the court to decide one way or another on the matter of President Trump’s eligibility.

Oral arguments have been scheduled for 80 minutes on Feb. 8, and the court stated it intends to issue a written opinion the same day.

On Feb. 2, the court granted President Trump’s team 40 minutes, respondents representing the six Colorado voters who sued 30 minutes, and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold 10 minutes.

Ms. Griswold was the original defendant of the petition in Colorado, and had not taken an official position on President Trump’s eligibility, but has publicly stated that she agreed with the state ruling to disqualify him as a candidate.

Colorado was the first state to issue such a ruling, and the Maine state secretary soon followed, but other jurisdictions, including a Maine court, have opted to wait for the high court to rule.

This novel legal theory rests on the premise that Jan. 6, 2021, constituted an “insurrection” as described in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars those who have sworn an oath of office and later participated in an insurrection or rebellion, or aided or gave comfort to enemies, from taking office without a two-thirds vote from Congress. The post-Civil War statute was meant to prevent officers who abandoned their office to join the Confederacy from returning without broad approval from the states.

The legal questions arising out of the wave of eligibility challenges have only multiplied. Petitioners argue that it is a straightforward matter of ordering state election officials to remove ineligible candidates as per state laws, but judges, attorneys for President Trump, and third-party experts have pointed out myriad statutory, constitutional, and jurisdiction issues while also asking whether, under the political question doctrine, this question cannot be handled by the courts.

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