Elie Honig, CNN’s chief legal analyst, strongly criticized Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows for her recent decision to prevent former President Donald Trump from being included on the state’s 2024 ballot. Honig argued that Bellows’ decision was grounded in sources such as “YouTube clips, news reports,” and other forms of evidence that would not hold up in a typical court of law.
After Maine kicked Trump off the ballot, CNN anchor John Berman asked Honig, “The 14th Amendment, Section 3 says in plain text that if you shall have engaged in insurrection, you can’t be in office. She takes that to mean that if she determines that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection, he can’t be on the Maine primary ballot. Is it that simple?”
“No, it’s not that simple,” Honig argued. “So, clearly, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says, ‘Engage in insurrection, you’re out.’ We all have that. The complicated part, and where we are going to see this play out in the courts, is who gets to decide and by what process.”
He also said that it’s “important to note” that Bellows’ ruling “says she’s basically following the same legal reasoning as the Colorado Supreme Court did last week, and she says in her ruling if this gets struck down in Colorado, we’re out of luck too. So she’s basing it on the same legal argument.”
“Let me sort of lay out the arguments on both sides,” he continued. “And by the way, it’s worth saying, we’re all theorizing here. We’re in legally unknown territory. The argument against is, first of all, the 14th Amendment Section 5 says Congress has the authority to pass laws to implement this. They did, they passed the criminal law, and the argument is that means Congress, not the states.”
“But perhaps, and this is the argument that the Maine secretary of state and Colorado made, the states can do it too. If that’s true, then section 2– question two is, were the processes, were the hearings fair? Did they comport with due process?” Honig continued.
“And I think there’s a question there with regard to what Maine did because if you look at the hearing, and she details this in the ruling, they heard from one fact witness, a law professor,” he added. “She based her ruling on a lot of documents, but also YouTube clips, news reports, things that would never pass the bar in normal court.
“She’s not a lawyer, by the way. It’s a smartly written decision, clearly consulted with lawyers, but this is an unelected– she’s chosen by the state legislature. Chosen, elected by the legislature, but not democratically elected,” Honig continued.
In a subsequent part of the segment, he further remarked, “I firmly believe that the Supreme Court will consider this case. The ruling tonight only strengthens the probability of that happening.”
Additionally, he made a forecast that the highest court in the country will not pass judgment on whether Trump engaged in an “insurrection,” but solely on the matter of whether states possess the authority to prohibit him from appearing on the presidential ballot.
Previously, Honig expressed disapproval of Colorado’s decision, alleging that the state’s supreme court violated Trump’s right to due process.
“I think the Supreme Court is going to take this case and I think the Supreme Court is going to reverse the Colorado Supreme Court,” he said.
“[W]e have a serious due process problem here because the 14th Amendment itself says that Congress — in Section 5 — Congress has to pass laws that tell us how this works, who gets to decide who engaged in insurrection. Is it a court? Is it Congress? Is it a jury? Is it a judge?” he added.