Trump Entreats Supreme Court for Reprieve in January 6th Legal Conundrum Amidst Immunity Controversy 🏛️
On the cusp of a new week, the erstwhile President Trump has beckoned the Supreme Court to forestall his impending trial concerning allegations of electoral subterfuge, whilst he challenges a decree dismissing his plea for immunity from the charges.
This appeal thrusts upon the high court a case that could etch new boundaries around the doctrine of presidential immunity, casting the justices into the pivotal role of arbiters on the timing of Trump’s judicial reckoning.
Historically inclined to defer his legal battles, Trump has managed to defer his trial in Washington, D.C., initially slated for the ides of March, by contesting his immunity claims at the appellate level.
As this saga unfolds at the Supreme Court, the justices’ verdict will significantly dictate whether Trump can maneuver the trial’s timing to postdate the presidential election, a strategy that could potentially see him reoccupying the Oval Office and, in turn, granting himself clemency or instructing the Justice Department to abandon the charges.
Among a quartet of criminal cases shadowing Trump, special counsel Jack Smith has levied four federal indictments against him, accusing the former president of a conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election’s outcome, to which Trump has pleaded not guilty.
Trump’s legal ensemble contends that a protracted trial during the electoral zenith would unduly hamper Trump’s campaign efforts against President Biden, insinuating that such is the underlying motive of the Special Counsel’s insistence on expeditious proceedings.
The appellate tribunal in the District of Columbia has resoundingly refuted Trump’s assertion that a former president is nearly invulnerable to criminal prosecution barring prior impeachment and conviction.
The appellate judges have articulated, “In the context of this criminal case, former President Trump assumes the role of citizen Trump, endowed with the same defenses as any other defendant facing criminal charges.”
They further elaborated, “The exalted office of the Presidency does not bestow its former occupants with perpetual immunity from legal accountability. Our thorough examination of these matters leads us to reject the notion of blanket immunity for former Presidents from federal prosecution, both generally and specifically in relation to the charges at hand against former President Trump.”
The unanimous concurrence from the appellate panel mirrors the skepticism they harbored during the proceedings, where Trump’s counsel conceded that presidential immunity would encompass even extreme actions such as sanctioning the assassination of a political adversary.
Moreover, the judges rebuffed the argument that impeachment is a prerequisite for prosecution, noting that it would effectively shield presidents from accountability for offenses committed during their tenure’s twilight or those unearthed subsequently.
The appellate judges also addressed the recurrent theme in Trump’s public discourse and legal filings—that he is the target of unjust persecution.
Acknowledging the historical novelty of a former President facing federal indictment, the judges concluded, “The likelihood of former Presidents being unjustly beleaguered by baseless federal criminal prosecutions seems minimal.”
Two of the adjudicating judges were appointed by President Biden, with the third being a nominee of President George H. W. Bush.
In a legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court, Trump signaled his impending appeal against the appellate court’s verdict, meanwhile requesting the apex court to provisionally suspend the trial proceedings pending the resolution of any appeals.
To entertain Trump’s forthcoming appeal, the assent of merely four justices is requisite. However, to accede to Trump’s immediate plea for a trial hiatus, known as a stay, the concurrence of five justices is necessary.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who will initially receive the motion for a stay, might, by convention, defer the decision to the collective judgment of the full court, given the monumental implications at stake.
This imminent emergency ruling, expected imminently, will significantly hint at the timeline for Trump’s trial.
Prior to elevating the immunity dispute to the Supreme Court on substantive grounds, Trump’s legal representatives have indicated their intention to petition the full bench of the D.C. Circuit to reconsider the ruling of the three-judge panel, a process that would further protract the proceedings, aligning with Trump’s objective to postpone the trial until after the 2024 election.
The Supreme Court might accede to this request in an emergency ruling, thereby enabling Trump to seek a comprehensive review by the full D.C. Circuit.
Trump’s attorneys have posited, “The argument that Presidents possess absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for their official acts presents a novel, intricate, and momentous question deserving of meticulous appellate scrutiny.”
Yet, the Supreme Court retains the discretion to simultaneously agree to deliberate upon Trump’s appeal in its entirety without awaiting the exhaustive appellate process, thereby establishing a timeline for written briefs and oral arguments.
The court, already engaged in scheduling cases for the forthcoming term, could expedite Trump’s case to render a decision within the ensuing months, reminiscent of the court’s expedited handling of Trump’s appeal concerning his disqualification from Colorado’s ballot under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause.
Nonetheless, some observers speculate that the Supreme Court might abstain from engaging with the immunity case.
Despite the court’s conservative majority, inclusive of three Trump appointees, the justices have occasionally diverged from Trump in his legal quandaries or opted for non-intervention.
The court previously declined a petition from Smith to bypass the appellate court and directly address the case, preferring to allow the lower court to deliberate initially.
Yet, the court might once again choose to abstain from the case, bolstered by the cogency of the lower court’s judgments.
“I do not foresee the Supreme Court entertaining Trump’s appeal. Naturally, any outcome is conceivable, and it requires the concurrence of 4 out of 9 Justices to initiate a case. However, given the frailty of Trump’s argument and the appellate court’s decision’s thoroughness and rigor, I envisage the Supreme Court opting not to hear it,” Neal Katyal, erstwhile acting solicitor general under the Obama administration, articulated on X.
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig concurred, noting the judiciary’s consistent repudiation of Trump and his confederates’ arguments that their actions preceding January 6th were within the purview of their official duties.
“Every proponent of the argument that their conduct related to January 6th fell within their official responsibilities has been uniformly unsuccessful. This unanimity renders it more plausible that the Supreme Court might decide against intervention,” he remarked last week.
While the prevailing expectation is that the Supreme Court would affirm the lower court’s verdict, opting to hear the case would invariably delay Trump’s trial, as U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has indicated she would adjust the trial date to accommodate the duration of the appellate deliberations.
The appellate proceedings spanned approximately two months, encompassing the briefings leading up to the hearing and the subsequent contemplation of the issue.
A Supreme Court endorsement would similarly entail additional time, with Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, cautioning that a delay could position the trial perilously close to the electoral season, potentially hindering the Justice Department’s involvement in the case.
“The Supreme Court’s acceptance of the DC Circuit’s immunity decision would ostensibly be to affirm it, not to overturn it; yet, by entertaining it, they risk effectively granting Trump immunity by deferring the trial until post-election, thereby depriving the public of its right to a prompt trial,” he previously opined on X.