CBS News Analyst Jazzed About ‘Legal Basis’ for States to Kick Trump Off Ballots

December 20th, 2023 5:01 PM

Having clearly not received the memo that the time just prior to and after Christmas is usually reserved for near-endless travel and weather segments, Wednesday’s CBS Mornings led off with over seven and a half minutes on the Colorado Supreme Court kicking former President Trump off its 2024 primary ballot and featured former Obama official-turned-supposedly-objective CBS News election law contributor David Becker reveling in the move.

Co-host, Democratic donor, and Obama family friend Gayle King opened the first of two segments by boasting of the “stunning decision” that Trump was “not eligible to be on that state’s Republican primary ballot and is in fact disqualified from being president again.” That last part, of course, is false.



Tossing to White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe, King proclaimed that “[w]hen saw the breaking news banner on my TV, I swear to you I thought I was reading it wrong” as “[t]his was very stunning for a lot of people.”

O’Keefe corrected King’s falsehood before moving on with the basics of what the arguments were from those who brought the case and how all seven of the state Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic governors. 

That said, he never mentioned the far-left nature of those bringing the case who believe Trump’s ineligible to run for President.

Before appearing live, Becker appeared in soundbites for O’Keefe, calling the ruling “unexpected” and “unprecedented” though it “kickstart[s] the process by which the United States Supreme Court is likely to rule, and their ruling absolutely will have some impact on whether or not Donald Trump, if he gains the Republican nomination is eligible to appear on the general election ballot.”

Appearing live a few minutes later with chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett (who co-wrote a book with him), Becker boasted that while it’s “stunning,” the case shouldn’t be dismissed as he excitedly told of there being a “legal basis for this” since “[t]he 14th Amendment exists for a reason, and...says that someone who is an officer of the United States, and who was taken an oath and who then engages in insurrection can’t hold office” even though cases in other states had all been “dismissed”.

Becker continued (click “expand”):

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: The Supreme Court will likely rule on this. Is this a shortcut way to get the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not Donald Trump did in fact insight an insurrection?

BECKER: I don’t know if the Supreme Court of Colorado intended it as a shortcut, but that is how it is going to play out, and that is actually probably a good thing. It’s important for a lot of people in the United States to know whether or not Donald Trump is a qualified candidate for the presidency. It is important to the Republican Party. They need to know if they have a qualified nominee. It’s important to election officials who are printing ballots with candidates’ names on them. And it’s of course important to the voters who ultimately have to decide who they’re going to vote for, who they can vote for. So, it’s good that the Supreme Court is going to take this up and hopefully rule on it quickly.

Garrett said he couldn’t see the courts removing Trump from being eligible for the general election, but Becker made sure to leave the door open and keep the hopes up for his friends on the left: “I think, you know, it’s hard to predict exactly what the Supreme Court will rule.”

For his part, Garrett jabbed Republicans for putting the courts in this position and not dealing with Trump themselves (click “expand”):

KING: Major, do you think this ruling will impact Donald Trump’s campaign? It was interesting, he made no mention of the ruling yesterday on the campaign trail.

GARRETT: He doesn’t have to, Gayle. He knows that this will create tremendous press attention. He knows, and this was predictable and it happened, all the Republicans challenging him for the party’s nomination rally, if not to his defense, but to say something that they believe is a common sensical proposition in this country, that courts shouldn’t decide who’s on the ballot, but that’s not really the question. The question is, what does the Constitution say about your qualifications if you were president of the United States, and were an active if not active participant, a non-benign actor in an attack on the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power? That’s the question the court was asked. The court didn’t jump into this. The court was asked a central constitutional question, only asked in our entire history because of the actions of former President Trump. That’s a moral question that will be adjudicated politically by the Republican Party. And, for the moment, it will give Trump not only a lot of press attention, which he benefits from, but a rallying effect within the party itself. Long term, though, I’m not so sure it will be a net positive.

ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today seemed like they got the message that it’d behoove them to pump the brakes.

On ABC, fill-in co-host Whit Johnson noted “Trump is no doubt vowing to fight this” “bombshell ruling” and congressional correspondent Rachel Scott noting this would almost certainly go to the Supreme Court. 

In another sign ABC has doubts, Scott made sure to pivot to rehashing Trump’s recent comments about illegal immigrants “poisoning the blood of America”.

NBC co-host Hoda Kotb called it “a court decision” that “has a lot of people talking” while co-host Savannah Guthrie quipped Colorado was “courting controversy”.

Guthrie and senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake both pointed out this effort has failed in other states. Haake said the “political backlash” was “instant” with both Trump allies and opponents in the GOP saying the decision was bunk.

“[L]egal efforts over the same issues have failed across the country, including lawsuits dismissed in Minnesota and New Hampshire and a Michigan appeals court rejecting challenges...this month,” Haake added.

Talking after Haake’s report, Guthrie and senior legal correspondent Laura Jarrett (who’s the daughter of Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett) doubled down with Jarrett calling it a “great law school exam” question, but a “disaster” in real-life for judges.

To see the relevant CBS transcript from December 20, click here