SCOTUS Case Looks Like Good News for Trump

Supreme Court seems likely to send immunity question back to lower court, delaying trial start for months
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2024 1:29 PM CDT
SCOTUS Case Looks Like Good News for Trump
Demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The "case is submitted." With those words, Chief Justice John Roberts wrapped up Thursday's historic testimony about absolute presidential immunity—and whether Donald Trump can be prosecuted for actions taken while he was in office, reports CNN. The gist of early coverage is that Trump will be pleased with the eventual outcome, even though he may lose the main thrust of the case. Details:

  • A Trump loss: At least five of the justices seemed likely to reject Trump's claim of absolute immunity, reports the AP. (Especially given extreme hypotheticals such as having a rival assassinated.)
  • But a Trump win: Both the New York Times and the Washington Post agree the court is on track to reject absolute immunity, but both say the court also seems poised to send the matter back to a lower court for clarification between public and private actions. That would likely delay Trump's federal trial on charges he tried to subvert the 2020 election for months, perhaps until after this year's vote—an outcome that would "amount to a victory for Trump," per Politico. For one thing, he could effectively torpedo the case should he win reelection.

  • Key exchange: "Without presidential immunity from criminal prosecution there can be no presidency as we know it," Trump attorney D. John Sauer told the court, per the Wall Street Journal. To which Samuel Alito responded, "My question is whether the very robust form of immunity that you're advocating is really necessary."
  • Roberts' concern: Roberts "clearly believes that the lower courts did not do enough to suss out exactly what is an official act versus a private act," says CNN legal analyst Paula Reid. "So what they're setting up here is likely the justices are going to come up with some sort of test, and then send it back down to the lower courts for more litigation."
  • Decision: Typically, the court would issue its decision in late June or early July, notes the Times, but the justices may speed things up given the circumstances.
  • Irrelevant? Trump's lawyers have long expected to lose the main argument, according to Rolling Stone. But merely getting the Supreme Court to hear the case in the first place—and thus delay special prosecutor Jack Smith's case against the former president—was reason enough for celebration, per the story. They were "literally popping champagne" when the court agreed to take the case, the story says.
(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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