Trump’s lawyers hope to put Illinois ballot challenge on hold as U.S. Supreme Court arguments loom

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.

Alex Brandon/AP

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers in Illinois hope to put on hold a lawsuit that aims to knock him off the state’s primary ballot based on the claim that he is disqualified from the presidency for having engaged in insurrection.

But a lawyer for five Illinois voters who are challenging Trump’s candidacy are urging a judge to move the case quickly along, noting Friday that it’s “certainly in candidate Trump’s interest to have this process take as long as possible” with the March 19 primary approaching.

Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter scheduled a hearing to consider both requests on Wednesday, though she will likely not hear arguments on the merits that day. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Thursday over the brewing national controversy over Trump’s candidacy. Specifically, the justices will consider whether the Colorado Supreme Court erred when it found in December that Trump is barred from the Oval Office under the 14th Amendment. 

The court in Colorado found that the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which interrupted the Electoral College vote count, was an insurrection “under any viable definition.” Further, it found that Trump’s related behavior amounted to “overt, voluntary, and direct participation.”

The 14th Amendment bars from “any office, civil or military, under the United States” anyone who previously took an oath as an “officer of the United States” to support the Constitution but then engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.”

Trump’s lawyers have told the U.S. Supreme Court that the amendment doesn’t apply because the president is not an “officer of the United States” under the Constitution, and because he did not engage in “anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection.’”

During a hearing Friday on the Cook County lawsuit, Chicago-based Trump lawyer Adam Merrill made note of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court arguments, insisting the case there “includes almost all of the same issues” as the case in Cook County. 

He argued the Cook County case should be put on hold, and he said he planned to file a formal motion to that effect later Friday. 

Caryn Lederer, an attorney for the five objecting voters, countered that Thursday will be the first day mail-in ballots may be sent out in Illinois. Her team asked for a speedy resolution of the case earlier this week, and she told Porter they are “focused on ensuring that the Illinois ballot is reflecting qualified candidates.” 

Porter told both sides to file additional briefs ahead of the hearing she plans to hold Wednesday. 

The Cook County lawsuit followed a unanimous State Board of Elections vote Tuesday rejecting the challenge to Trump’s candidacy. That set the stage for the battle in state court, which is expected to make its way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Free Speech for People is representing the five Illinois voters who object to Trump’s candidacy in the matter. 

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