Kermit Roosevelt on incitement of insurrection and the 14th Amendment

The article of impeachment against President Trump introduced in and passed on Wednesday, Jan. 13, by a majority of the House of Representatives was based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which charged him with “incitement of insurrection” over the violence at the U.S. Capitol. Constitutional law expert Kermit Roosevelt explains this little-known provision of the Constitution.

Kermit Roosevelt
Constitutional law professor Kermit Roosevelt. (Image: Penn Law)

“Section 3 of the 14th Amendment comes from a specific historical context and was addressed to a specific problem. In that context, it was quite clear how it worked. Application to the President today is far less clear,” Roosevelt explains. “Section 3 … provides that anyone who took the oath to support the Constitution described in Article VI (hence any state or federal official) and then engaged in insurrection was barred. It meant that when ex-confederates presented their credentials, the House or Senate could refuse to seat them, as indeed they did. Its application beyond Congress is less clear, but it has been invoked there.”

Whether Section 3 applies to the current president, Roosevelt says “The presidency is presumably covered by it, as an ‘office … under the United States,’ so if Trump engaged in insurrection, he is ineligible to be President. Who decides whether he has done that? How do they decide? What are the consequences for his acts between January 6 and whenever the determination is made? The Constitution does not answer those questions.”

However, he adds, “I don’t think the Constitution has any provision designed to address the current situation, but impeachment probably comes closest.”

Read more at Penn Law News.