The Supreme Court, in a move that has sparked intrigue, decided to avoid addressing the contentious issue of whether former President Donald Trump can assert immunity against criminal charges related to his purported meddling in the 2020 election. However, it is worth noting that the ongoing legal battle regarding this matter is far from reaching its conclusion.
The decision marked a victory for Trump, who had strongly opposed special counsel Jack Smith’s unusual attempt to bring the question of Trump’s immunity before the Supreme Court. However, this case is very likely to resurface in the Supreme Court in the near future. In the meantime, a federal appeals court in Washington will be the first to address the issue.
In August, Smith successfully obtained a four-count indictment against the ex-president. However, before a lower court could proceed with the trial, Trump asserted his immunity from prosecution.
While the case brings up important inquiries regarding presidential immunity, the reasons behind it are probably more straightforward: Smith desires a prompt trial, whereas Trump would presumably prefer to postpone it until after the election. In 2025, President Trump could potentially dismiss his legal troubles more easily by instructing the Justice Department to drop the cases.
Both Trump and the Justice Department failed to respond promptly to the comment request. In a post on social media, Trump expressed his eagerness to present his arguments in the court of appeals.
The Supreme Court issued its decision without providing any commentary, and no dissenting opinions were recorded.
Trump is currently leading the GOP nomination race and is also ahead of President Joe Biden in various general election polls.
On December 1, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan firmly dismissed a range of arguments put forth by Trump in his attempt to have the case thrown out. Trump has made claims, such as being immune to prosecution due to the purported association of his alleged actions with his presidential duties. Nevertheless, he decided to appeal this decision, a move that could potentially impede the impending trial set to commence on March 4.
The case will now go back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has already set a hearing for Jan. 9. Any decision made by the appeals court could be further appealed to the Supreme Court.
Supporters of Trump celebrated the decision as a significant victory, while his opponents expressed concerns that it could greatly delay the start of the trial. However, it is highly probable that the same matter will be brought back to the Supreme Court in early 2024.
“The only outcome of this is that it sends the matter back to the D.C. Circuit, which is already scheduled to hear the argument on January 9 – and will probably issue a decision shortly after,” stated Steve Vladeck, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Texas, on social media. “Afterwards, we will proceed to the Supreme Court.”
The issue of immunity is distinct from an important 4-3 ruling made this week by the Supreme Court of Colorado. This ruling concluded that Trump, by inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, has rendered himself ineligible for a second term. Trump, determined to challenge this decision, has pledged to swiftly appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Consequently, the nine justices will find themselves in the position of having to handle multiple high-profile cases related to the former president.
Trump has consistently asserted that all of the cases against him are politically motivated attacks.