Maine’s top election official has disqualified Donald Trump from the state ballot in next year’s US presidential primary election – becoming the second state to bar the former president over the Capitol riots.
Maine secretary of state Shenna Bellows concluded that Mr Trump incited an insurrection when he spread false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election and then urged his supporters to march on the Capitol on 6 January 2021.
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Ms Bellows wrote in her 34-page decision.
“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
The ruling, which can be appealed to a state court, applies only to the March primary election, but it could affect Mr Trump’s status for the November general election.
It will likely add to pressure on the US Supreme Court to resolve questions about Mr Trump’s eligibility nationwide under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding office.
Mr Trump has been indicted in both a federal case and in Georgia for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election but he has not been charged with insurrection related to the 6 January attack.
His lawyers have disputed that he engaged in insurrection and argued that his remarks to supporters on the day of the 2021 riot were protected by his right to free speech.
Mr Trump’s campaign said it would quickly file an objection to the “atrocious” decision made by Maine’s secretary of state.
On 19 December, Colorado became the first state to disqualify Mr Trump from its primary ballot, making him the first candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible for the presidency for engaging in insurrection.
Mr Trump has vowed to appeal the Colorado ruling to the Supreme Court.
Similar attempts to disqualify Mr Trump in other states have been rejected.
The top court in Michigan, a pivotal battleground state in the general election, declined on Wednesday to hear a case seeking to disqualify Mr Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot.
This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.
Please refresh the page for the fullest version.