Why the Trump immunity ruling may mean he never faces justice

NEW YORK – When historians come to write the history of the 2024 Presidential election, they may well point to an unlikely hero in Donald Trump’s corner: the US Supreme Court.

The ruling on presidential immunity by America’s highest court – 67 days after it heard oral arguments – could very well mean that the former President’s most serious trial never happens.

On the face of it the ruling is a loss for Trump: the Supreme Court rejected his request for blanket immunity while he was in office.

But that was never why Trump brought the case: it was all about delaying his trial in Washington over his role in the 6 January insurrection.

Trump deployed his well-worn tactic of delay, delay, delay and here it worked spectacularly.

Facing decades in jail if found guilty and a heavily Democratic jury pool, along with a no-nonsense judge, Trump was desperate to avoid this case coming to trial before the vote.

Gary Roush, of College Park, Md., protests outside of the Supreme Court, Monday, July 1, 2024, after court decisions were announced in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Protesters outside of the Supreme Court on Monday after court decisions were announced in Washington (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)

What happens next is that Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, will have to decide which parts can move forward in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

But it states that Trump can appeal against her ruling, meaning it will likely be several months before this case goes to trial.

Should Trump’s delaying tactics indeed push the trial past November, it will be an utter travesty.

Of the four criminal cases Trump is facing, this is the one that voters deserve to have a verdict on as it relates to his efforts to illegally stay in power after he lost the vote in 2020.

In addition, the prospect of him facing a trial in December after he wins the vote is unimaginable and would plunge the nation into a catastrophic and divisive situation.

If Trump wins in November he will pardon himself or simply order prosecutors to dismiss the case.

To give you a sense of how helpful the Supreme Court has been to Trump, it’s important to go back and look at the timeline of the case.

Trump was charged in August last year as a result of the investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith who claimed he conspired with others to overturn the 2020 election on 6 January 2021.

Soon after, the former president asked Judge Chutkan to throw out the case but she refused and in a bumper sticker-worthy line told him: “Presidents are not kings.”

Mr Smith asked the Supreme Court to fast-track the case and bypass all lower courts but it refused, meaning that it went to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which upheld Judge Chutkan’s ruling.

Two strikes weren’t going to deter Trump, who appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which finally heard arguments in April and waited until the final week of its term before issuing a ruling.

It wasn’t like Judge Chutkan was hanging around either: before the case went to the Supreme Court, she repeatedly rejected Trump’s efforts to delay matters.

For instance, she told him last August: “Mr Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule.”

That led Trump to brand the judge “highly partisan” and “VERY BIASED & UNFAIR!” in posts on social media.

Democrats have already said that the ruling was a fix because three of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by Trump.

One other, Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by a Republican, is married to a woman who openly denies the result of the 2020 election.

Another Republican appointee, Justice Samuel Alito, flew a flag at his home which was championed by protesters on 6 January – he later claimed it was his wife’s doing.

The ruling also throws a spanner in the other two outstanding cases that Trump is facing, in Georgia for election interference and in Florida for mishandling classified documents.

The judge in the Florida case has seemed willing to entertain outlandish legal theories from Trump’s lawyers and has slowed proceedings to a crawl. Addressing the limits of presidential authority will slow it down even further.

The Georgia case has become a mess after the top prosecutor, Fani Willis, embarked on an affair with her deputy, which resulted in a bizarre trial of sorts about her fitness to stay on the case.

While Trump is already a convicted felon after his trial in New York on falsifying business records, the 6 January case is the one that matters, and must be held before the election.

To do otherwise would shred the reputation of the Supreme Court and deprive voters of crucial information before they decide who will be the next president.