- The Supreme Court is faced with three major issues surrounding former President Donald Trump that have implications for the 2024 election.
- The justices will have to consider questions about Trump’s immunity from prosecution and an obstruction statute behind two of the counts in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of him for alleged efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, as well as, potentially, Trump’s eligibility for office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Trump is disqualified from the state’s ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Three major issues with significant implications for former President Donald Trump and the 2024 presidential election have made their way to the Supreme Court, or will soon be there.
Contentious questions about Trump’s immunity from prosecution, the scope of an obstruction statute connected to two charges in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of him for alleged efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, and likely soon, Trump’s eligibility for office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment will be squarely before the Supreme Court. The justices are also operating on tight deadlines in multiple cases.
District Judge Tanya Chutkan declined in early December to toss Trump’s 2020 election case based on the argument that he is immune from prosecution because the actions in Smith’s indictment were taken within the bounds of his office. She wrote that the presidency “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”
But last week, in what legal experts characterized as a bid to speed the process along and maintain the scheduled March 4 trial date, Smith asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the question without waiting for a decision from the lower court. The justices, who agreed to expedite consideration of Smith’s request, now must quickly decide whether to take the case or punt on the question and allow the D.C. Circuit to have the first crack at it.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals already scheduled oral arguments for January 9, 2024. Trump’s lawyers urged the justices Wednesday not to “rush to decide the issues with reckless abandon” by granting Smith’s request.
The Colorado Supreme Court likely handed the Supreme Court another election issue to address, with a Tuesday rulingfinding Trump disqualified from the Colorado ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. Colorado Judge Sarah Wallace ruled in November that Trump “engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021 through incitement,” but was not an “officer of the United States” who could be disqualified under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Federal judges have tossed similar efforts to pull Trump from the ballot in multiple states. The Supreme Court likewise declined in October to hear the appeal of a little-known 2024 Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro, who sued to remove Trump from the ballot in Florida after a district court found he lacked standing.
The Colorado Supreme Court paused its decision until Jan. 4, pending Trump’s appeal to the Supreme Court. Colorado’s deadline to set candidates for the Republican primary is Jan. 5, meaning the issue must be resolved by then, according to CNN.
Last week, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear a case on the scope of an obstruction statute, Section 1512(c)(2), that has been used to charge hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as the former president, for obstructing Congress’s certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Two of the four counts in Smith’s indictment of Trump are connectedto the statute.
“Hundreds of cases have been and will be affected by the scope of Section 1512(c)(2), including a case against the former President,” Jan. 6 defendant Joseph Fischer’s petition to the Supreme Court noted. “In addition, the use of Section 1512(c)(2) outside evidence impairment crimes is an extraordinary and unprecedented extension of the statute’s reach.”
Oral arguments for the case have not yet been scheduled.
Heading into the election year, the Supreme Court’s docket already includes a number of other high-profile cases that it is expected to decide on before the end of June, including a case on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the chemical abortion pill mifepristone and another considering the Biden administration’s coordination with social media companies to restrict online speech on issues ranging from COVID-19 to elections.
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