Trump skips Illinois loyalty oath promising not to overthrow government

Januaryt 9, 2024

Republican polling leader (and former President) Donald Trump did not sign a loyalty oath requested of candidates for election in Illinois that asks, among other things, to swear that they won’t support overthrowing the government; according to an analysis of candidate petitions by the local news outlets WBEZ and Chicago Sun-Times.

According to a report by The Washington Post, his decision to not sign the pledge came near the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. Trump is under indictment for alleged crimes in his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Presidential hopefuls vying for a spot on Illinois’ March 19 primary ballot had to submit their nominating petitions to the State Board of Elections on Thursday, January 7, or Friday, January 8. The loyalty pledge is not required but is a long-standing tradition that candidates undertake as part of that paperwork.

Trump has not publicly acknowledged the decision but had signed the oath during his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond on Saturday to a request for comment.

The loyalty oath dates back to the 1950s McCarthy era, when such pledges became popular among lawmakers fearful about the potential infiltration of communism in the United States. The pledge asks candidates to swear they are not affiliated with communist organizations or any “foreign political agency, party, organization, or government which advocates the overthrow of the constitutional government by force.”

The oath remains enshrined in Illinois law but has been struck down as unconstitutional on free speech grounds in federal courts.

The Biden campaign on Saturday condemned Trump’s decision to sidestep the pledge: “For the entirety of our nation’s history, presidents have put their hand on the Bible and sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States—and Donald Trump can’t bring himself to sign a piece of paper saying he won’t attempt a coup to overthrow our government,” said Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden campaign.

The decision to skip the oath is in line with Trump’s unconventional start to his presidential campaign. In August, he said he would not sign a pledge to support the Republican nominee should he lose the presidential primary. He has also been a no-show at the four GOP debates and is set to skip a debate in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 10—slated days before the Iowa caucuses on January 15.

On Thursday—the same day on which Trump submitted his petition—five Illinois voters filed a petition to remove the former president from the state’s Republican primary ballot.

Research contact: @washingtonpost