Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Trump takes advantage of the sluggish legal process, and the Supreme Court is assisting him

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The Supreme Court decided to look into Donald Trump’s argument that he should be protected from criminal charges. This keeps the judges in the middle of a controversy during an election year for a few more months. The final decision on whether Trump is immune or not will not happen before summer, meaning there won’t be a verdict on his alleged interference in the 2020 election until then.

The court wants to have the last say on Trump’s immunity claim, even if they end up agreeing with the lower federal court’s decision against Trump’s broad claim. For Trump, this recent order is seen as another success in the legal system that he often criticizes. The court’s involvement in Trump v. United States is also a notable moment in their complex relationship with the former president.

Cases related to Trump’s policies and personal matters have consistently caused tension among the judges. Although Trump appointed three of them, he had a significant impact on the court’s shift to the right, especially with the 2022 reversal of abortion rights.

Trump’s strategy to delay the four criminal trials against him is well-known. The Supreme Court has become an ally in his fight against special counsel Jack Smith’s case, even with the expedited schedule. The court announced that Trump’s appeal will be heard the week of April 22, and a decision could be reached by the end of June.

This timeline is relatively fast for the high court, considering the usual lengthy process for briefing, oral arguments, and resolution. However, for Trump’s attempt to avoid a federal trial before the presidential election, this schedule introduces a new level of uncertainty. He might not face trial for his actions related to the 2020 election before the 2024 election.

The announcement on Wednesday took longer than expected, suggesting possible disagreements among the judges on how to handle the controversy. Some may have preferred to leave the DC Circuit decision in place, aligning with past high court rulings.

The charges against Trump, relating to his refusal to accept the 2020 election results, include conspiracy and obstruction tied to the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021. Special counsel Jack Smith emphasized the severity of the alleged crimes and urged the justices to let the DC Circuit decision stand.

Trump’s indictment last year led to these charges, and the special counsel emphasized the seriousness of the alleged crimes, stating that a president’s criminal scheme to overturn an election strikes at the heart of democracy. Smith argued that there is no fair chance of success for Trump’s claim of absolute immunity, and the case should proceed to trial.

The judges said no to Smith’s request on December 22, without giving a reason. The case moved through the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals, and the special counsel won, leading to Trump’s current appeal.

Trump’s lawyers asked the judges to step in, referring to Smith’s words from his December filing. The special counsel had wanted the judges to quickly get involved, saying it’s very important for the court to resolve Trump’s immunity claims.

The DC Circuit opinion in Trump v. United States took about a month and stated that, for this criminal case, Trump is now just a regular citizen and doesn’t have the executive immunity he had while he was President.

According to the existing rules, Trump might not succeed in his claim to protect him from criminal prosecution. But the recent action shows that most of the judges are at least willing to hear him out.

The Trump-related cases are crucial for the court this session. There are already important cases scheduled for the 2023-2024 session, including one about federal regulation of the abortion pill Mifepristone in March. The court is also dealing with other regulatory disputes about federal power over public safety, environmental protection, and consumer affairs.

The Trump-related litigation has overshadowed some of these cases. In February, the Supreme Court had a special session about whether states could prevent Trump from being on presidential ballots. The justices seemed ready to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that would stop Trump from running for office because of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Now, the resolution of the second case may affect the drafting of opinions in the first one. Trump’s first criminal trial is set for March 25 in New York. He faces charges of falsifying business records, with a 34-count indictment. The trial is expected to last six weeks, and a federal case in Florida against Trump over his alleged mishandling of classified documents is tentatively scheduled for May 20.

On Wednesday, Trump celebrated the Supreme Court’s action on social media, saying that legal scholars are thankful. If the justices deny him immunity from trial, he might react differently, as he did in 2020 when the court went against his administration. He posted, “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” But that’s not the case today.

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