When the Supreme Court overturned the Colorado decision barring Donald Trump from the ballot in Trump v. Anderson, it chose not to disturb the Colorado Supreme Court’s and trial court’s findings that Trump engaged in insurrection on January 6th, something every tribunal that has examined the question has found.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, on March 4, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows–who previously ruled, relying heavily on the Colorado decision, that Trump was disqualified and could not appear on Maine’s primary ballot–issued a short modified ruling. In it, she withdrew only the subsection of her original decision that said that Maine could enforce Section 3 against a presidential candidate and her ultimate conclusion barring Trump from the ballot, but left in place the well-reasoned and detailed findings that Trump is an insurrectionist.

In the face of yet another decision refusing to exonerate him, on March 6, Trump filed a motion requesting that Secretary Bellows vacate her original decision in its entirety so that it was as if she never found that he was an insurrectionist. Trump’s motion did not make any argument that her findings were wrong and argued only that the Secretary lacked jurisdiction to hear challenges against him in the first place.

Secretary Bellows denied that motion for a number of reasons, including that nothing in the modified ruling that leaves the findings against Trump untouched “conflicts with the Supreme Court’s conclusion in Anderson that states lack the authority to enforce Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to federal officers.” In other words, her findings that January 6 was an insurrection and that Trump engaged in it will stand and nothing about the Supreme Court’s decision will change that.

Trump has responded by suing Secretary Bellows herself in a complaint filed in Maine’s Superior Court just hours after she denied his motion, seeking to force the Secretary to vacate her original ruling and issue a new modified ruling that she was never empowered to hear the case. In sum, he alleges that “[t]he Secretary lacked jurisdiction as she had no Congressional authority to hear the challenges . . . and therefore, her all of her ruling [sic] concerning Section 3, including the admission of evidence and the making of factual and legal findings, was void and should be vacated.” Once again, Trump’s complaint neither defends his conduct nor points out any inaccuracy in Secretary Bellows’s finding that he is an insurrectionist; instead, Trump complains that because Secretary Bellows never should have heard the challenges brought by Maine’s voters, he is aggrieved by the Secretary “branding him an ‘insurrectionist.’” Secretary Bellows has not yet responded.

Secretary Bellows’s reasons for denying Trump’s motion to vacate her ruling were correct. But for all of its legal faults, Trump’s undertaking in Maine reinforces some important points following the Supreme Court’s decision, which was far from the victory that Trump claims it to be. Not only did the Supreme Court not exonerate him, it did nothing to call into question the accuracy of the findings in each of the three states to consider the question of whether Trump is an insurrectionist–all of which ruled that he is. Nor did it overturn other legal rulings that the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection and that oathbreakers who engaged in it are barred from office. In fact, the Supreme Court declined on March 18 to hear the appeal of Couy Griffin, a former County Commissioner in New Mexico who engaged in the insurrection and was barred from office after a trial in state court in 2022.

The evidence of Trump’s engagement in insurrection that led to rulings against him Colorado, Maine, and Illinois is so overwhelming that Trump is not even challenging the accuracy of any of the factual findings in Secretary Bellows’s ruling against him. These decisions are unequivocal about Trump’s incitement of an insurrection to serve his own political interests at the expense of the public interest. They are historic touchstones that inform the public and hold our leaders to account.

Trump’s lawsuit in Maine is his first effort to eradicate these historic legal findings that he is an insurrectionist. That effort should, and likely will, fail.


Jan. 6 photo by Tyler Merbler under a Creative Commons license