President Joe Biden said it’s “fine” if Donald Trump remains on 2024 ballots, as the former president faces a wave of lawsuits challenging his eligibility under a constitutional clause blocking insurrectionists from holding public office.
Mr Biden, briefly speaking to reporters shouting questions outside the White House as he prepared to board a helicopter, was asked whether Mr Trump should be “allowed” to stay on presidential election ballots.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s fine,” Mr Biden replied.
The reporter then asked why Mr Trump “is leading in the polls if he’s a threat to democracy, as you say.”
“Because of guys like you,” Mr Biden said, laughing.
“What am I doing? C’mon,” the reporter replied.
“I’m teasing, man. I’m teasing,” he said. “It’s early.”
The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next month to consider whether Mr Trump is ineligible for office under the scope of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.
Last month’s historic Colorado Supreme Court decision at the centre of the case determined that his actions on January 6 during the attack on the US Capitol “constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection.”
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court as Trump v Anderson, among dozens of challenges from voters and state officials to Mr Trump’s eligibility under the provisions of the 14th Amendment.
Justices will hear arguments on 8 February.
A decision from the high court could have sweeping impacts for Mr Trump’s campaign as he seeks the Republican nomination for president while battling multiple criminal indictments, including state-level and federal trials on charges connected to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, culminating in his failure to stop the mob that breached the halls of Congress to do it by force.
Mr Biden’s re-election campaign has framed Mr Trump’s refusal to accept his election loss as part of an autocratic movement that poses a direct threat to American democracy and civil liberties.
“Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time. It is what the 2024 election is all about,” Mr Biden said in remarks from Pennsylvania earlier this year.
In a speech to supporters in South Carolina, Mr Biden connected the conspiracy-theory fuelled attack on the Capitol to a far-right reactionary movement targeting Americans’ civil rights that is “determined to erase history and your future.”
“Banning books, denying your right to vote and have it counted, destroying diversity, equality, inclusion all across America, harbouring hate and replacing hope with anger and resentment and a dangerous view of America,” he said.