Official removed from office under 14th Amendment speaks out as Trump case looms

“They started with me [but] … it’s been about Trump,” Cuoy Griffin said.

As a legal battle begins to brew over whether the 14th Amendment disqualifies Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential election because of Jan. 6 — which would mark an unprecedented and controversial development — ABC News recently spoke with the one politician who has been removed from office under that same argument.

Former Otero County, New Mexico, Commissioner Couy Griffin was disqualified almost exactly a year ago after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) sued to eject him from his role under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 states that someone isn’t eligible for future office if, while they were previously in office, they took an oath to support the Constitution but then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or [gave] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” unless they are granted amnesty by a two-thirds vote of Congress. It is not a criminal penalty.

Griffin’s Section 3 case was a bench trial decided by a state judge and he has since twice appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, to no avail. Griffin was convicted of trespassing at the U.S. Capitol two years ago, though he said he did not enter the building with the mob. He was found not guilty of a disorderly conduct charge.

He served jail time in Washington, D.C., after being found guilty in 2022.

In an interview Wednesday, he insisted that efforts to use the 14th Amendment against politicians are always wrong.

“I don’t care if you’re talking about a conservative or a liberal — you shouldn’t be able to use a court to remove an elected official,” he said from New Mexico. “That was their [CREW’s] plan. They started with me. It’s never been about Couy Griffin, it’s been about Trump.”

On Wednesday, CREW filed a lawsuit in Colorado on behalf of six voters seeking to keep Trump from the ballot in the state.

A Trump campaign spokesman said in response, in part: “There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it.”

In this May 1, 2020, file photo, Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin waves an American flag while riding a horse up Sixth Avenue during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has vocally pushed back on Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, has also been skeptical of the disqualification argument. “Anyone who believes in democracy must let the voters decide,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

Griffin told ABC News in a phone call that he thinks his case was a testing ground for Trump’s potential removal from the presidential ballot under the same constitutional provision.

He said he has seen recent op-eds and articles from some conservative legal scholars about the idea of refusing to put Trump on the ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause and wasn’t surprised: “Why they did what they did to me was only to get Trump,” he contended.

CREW, for its part, said they brought their suit against Trump because “it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future,” the group’s president, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement.

Bookbinder told reporters on Wednesday that “this is obviously a case of tremendous, tremendous importance.”

“We look forward to proving our case in the coming weeks,” he said.

Griffin, founder of Cowboys for Trump, told ABC News that despite losing his job due to Jan. 6, he still has no regrets about participating in the events of the day because he says his actions were peaceful.

Last year, several New Mexico residents, aided by CREW, sued to have Griffin removed from office under the Civil War-era provision, which had not been used to remove a public official from office for a century.

Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin speaks to reporters as he arrives at federal court in Washington, D.C., June. 17, 2022.

The judge in Griffin’s case found that the events of and around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack constituted an insurrection, that Griffin “engaged in” those events and that Griffin’s free speech argument did not pass muster.

The ruling describes Griffin’s behavior that day as he spent more than an hour on the inauguration platform speaking into a bullhorn at times and includes testimony from a witness to Griffin’s behavior who described him as “very encouraging” to the mob congregated at the Capitol.

“Mr. Griffin aided the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violence. By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’s election-certification proceedings,” the judge wrote.

When asked what his intentions were that day if not to overthrow the government, Griffin told ABC News that he was “honoring my oath of office because I questioned the integrity of the [2020 presidential] election from Day 1. I was basically honoring my oath of office, and the hypocrisy is they removed me from office for violating my oath.”

There have been no confirmed findings of widespread fraud in the 2020 election and the integrity of the results have been attested to by numerous officials of both parties.

Griffin believes that he should still be in office.

“It should be a will of the people, not of the courts,” he said.

Original Article: