Former Obama adviser David Axelrod warned Friday that a court decision removing former President Trump from the primary ballot “would rip the country apart” as legal questions mount over his candidate qualifications.
Maine’s secretary of state determined this week that Trump should be barred from the primary ballot, citing his conduct surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riots as violating the 14th Amendment “insurrection clause.”
“I have very, very strong reservations about all of this,” Axelrod said in an “Erin Burnett OutFront” interview on CNN. “I do think it would rip the country apart if he were actually prevented from running because tens of millions of people want to vote for him.”
“I think if you’re going to beat Donald Trump, you’re going to probably have to do it at the polls,” he continued.
In her decision, Shenna Bellows (D), Maine secretary of state, said Trump “used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters” on Jan. 6 and “was aware of the likelihood for violence and at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it.”
A similar challenge in Colorado, held up by the state’s high court last week, is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Axelrod said the Maine decision plays into Trump’s claims that Democrats are politically motivated to move against him, and could rile voters.
“A lot of the motivation for [Trump’s] candidacy was as a legal defense strategy,” Axelrod said. “He wanted to set up a construct … which says that they’re coming after him because he’s running for president and they’re trying to prevent him from being president.”
“We’ve run this experiment, he’s only gained since he started getting indicted,” he continued. “What you thought might be kryptonite for him has turned out to be battery packs, and this is a big one for him.”
The Trump campaign has appealed the Maine ruling, and criticized it as “election interference.”
“We are witnessing, in real-time, the attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said. “Make no mistake, these partisan election interference efforts are a hostile assault on American democracy.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.