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Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of about 3,000 supporters during a 2016 campaign rally in Grand Junction on Oct. 18, 2016. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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A Denver District Court judge on Wednesday heard closing arguments in a trial that will determine whether Donald Trump should be allowed to appear on Colorado’s Republican presidential primary ballot next year.

The case, stemming from a lawsuit filed by a liberal political nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., is likely to advance to the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar lawsuits have been brought in other states across the country. None has been successful so far. 

The lawsuits allege that Trump’s role in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol disqualifies him from running for president under the 14th Amendment, which bars people who took an “oath … to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from holding federal or state office. 

“Donald Trump has disqualified himself from ever holding office again,” attorney Sean Grimsley, representing the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, said in his closing arguments. “Trump lit the fire that was the attack on the Capitol. He alone had the powers and authorities to put that attack down.”

Grimsley showed videos and images from the Jan. 6 riot in making his final points toJudge Sarah B. Wallace. He also cited Trump’s social media posts and findings from the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. Finally, Grimsley highlighted testimony delivered during a weeklong bench trial that began in late October, including from police officers who were at the Capitol on the day of the riot, as well as from U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, and constitutional experts.


Scott Gessler, a Colorado lawyer representing Trump’s 2024 campaign, argued that the petitioner’s argument had a “rotten foundation.” He called the Jan. 6 committee politically biased against Trump and questioned whether a decision with such big consequences for the whole country should be made in Denver District Court.

Gessler pointed to testimony from the witnesses who testified on the former president’s behalf, including U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican, and Colorado GOP Treasurer Tom Bjorklund, who attended the Trump rally that preceded the Jan. 6 riot and marched to, but didn’t enter, the Capitol. 

“President Trump came nowhere near engaging in violence, insurrection or anything approaching lawless activity,” said Gessler, a former Colorado secretary of state. 

Wallace’s ruling will hinge on what she believes constitutes an “insurrection” and whether she accepts the Trump campaign’s assertion that any role the former president played in the riot is protected under the First Amendment. 

Judge Sarah B Wallace presides over 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)

The closing arguments Wednesday came a day after a Michigan judge refused to block Trump from that state’s primary ballot under the 14th Amendment. 

Michigan Court of Claims Judge James Redford said deciding whether an event constituted “a rebellion or insurrection and whether or not someone participated in it” are questions best left to Congress and not “one single judicial officer.” A judge, he wrote, “cannot in any manner or form possibly embody the represented qualities of every citizen of the nation — as does the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

Last week, Minnesota’s Supreme Court rejected another effort to block Trump from appearing on Minnesota’s GOP primary ballot next year.

The Colorado lawsuit was brought on behalf of a group of Republican and unaffiliated voters. The defendant is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat whose office has taken a neutral stance on the case.

Wallace is expected to issue her ruling in the Colorado lawsuit before the end of this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....