'There's a powerful argument' Trump is disqualified for presidency under 14th Amendment: Kaine

"It's probably going to get resolved in the courts," the Democrat said.

September 3, 2023, 1:03 PM

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia on Sunday said that he believes a strong legal argument can be made to use the 14th Amendment to remove former President Donald Trump from the ballot in 2024, citing Trump's actions related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Shortly after Jan. 6, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection amid his push to overturn his election loss, with 10 Republicans and all Democrats voting to impeach him.

He denied any wrongdoing, and while seven members of his own party joined Democrats to support his conviction, he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.

"In my view, the attack on the Capitol that day was designed for a particular purpose at a particular moment, and that was to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power of as is laid out in the Constitution," Kaine said Sunday in an interview with ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "So I think there's a powerful argument to be made."

"The language is specific," Kaine argued, referring to a section of the amendment that 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.

Some legal scholars and advocacy groups agree that that would include Trump, though similar efforts against other Republicans have failed.

A Trump campaign spokesman previously called the potential use of the 14th Amendment "blatant election interference."

Kaine, a former vice presidential nominee, said on "This Week" that his congressional colleagues had debated using the 14th Amendment to remove Trump from office, rather than pursuing a second impeachment in the wake of Jan. 6. He said he thought at the time that it might have been "a more productive way to go."

Still, Kaine suggested that Democrats should not put all their hopes in the legal maneuver.

"My sense is it's probably going to get resolved in the courts," he said. "But, you know, I think what we have to focus on in our side is we just got to win in 2024."

He said that starts with winning legislative races in his home state in 2023, because it "will send a message" about next year's elections.

Last week, President Joe Biden directed the Democratic National Committee to invest $1.2 million in those races, a DNC spokesperson confirmed to ABC News. The money will go toward supporting campaign staffing and get-out-the-vote programming across the state, the DNC said.

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks to reporters on his way to a classified all-Senate briefing on Artificial Intelligence at the U.S. Capitol, July 11, 2023, in Washington.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Kaine on "This Week" also slammed many of the 2024 Republican presidential contenders as having a "complete lack of a moral compass" because of their pledge to vote for Trump even if he were to be convicted of a crime. (Vivek Ramaswamy, one of those candidates, maintained in his own appearance on "This Week" that the prosecutions of Trump are wrong.)

"If you are unwilling to say that the behavior of Donald Trump trying to overturn the peaceful transfer of power is a disqualifier, if you pledge, despite that, to vote for him, if you pledge, despite that, to pardon him should you be elected -- it shows that you don't have the moral compass that you need to be the leader of the greatest nation in the world," Kaine said.

Stephanopoulos asked Kaine about why Trump, despite his legal challenges, is tied with Biden in recent polling. (Trump has pleaded not guilty in four cases.)

Biden has also grappled with anemic approval and favorability ratings that suggest voters are discontent with both politicians.

Kaine cited the "painful" years Americans have gone through with the COVID-19 pandemic causing more than a million deaths, countless job losses and personal sacrifices.

"I think there is a collective trauma that still is kind of working its way through the system," he said. "But as I look at what the Biden administration, working with Congress, has been able to do: delivering on infrastructure, delivering on clean energy, record job growth, manufacturing is back in the United States. And I have every reason to believe we're going to continue to be able to celebrate those accomplishments."

Kaine added that a contrast between Biden's legislative wins will be a split screen that will help Democrats.

"On the other side, you're going to be reading what is the latest news about Donald Trump's criminal trials," he said.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos if the current close race between Biden and Trump reflects voters' concerns about Biden's age, health or his policies, Kaine pointed the finger at what he called poor messaging.

"We have to do, as Democrats, something that we don't do so well which is go out and sell: Sell the accomplishments, sell the infrastructure projects, sell the growth and manufacturing jobs," Kaine said. "And if we do that, I think Joe Biden is going to get reelected."