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Supreme Court to Mull Trump Ballot Questions

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Supreme Court to Mull Trump Ballot Questions

The Supreme Court is poised to jump head first into a place it never really wanted to be: the middle of the 2024 presidential race.

Next week, the justices are scheduled to hear arguments about whether Donald Trump should be removed from the ballot for engaging in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

The issues the Supreme Court will consider at the hearing on Thursday will turn on a novel question of the law: whether Trump can be barred from running for president under a provision of the 14th Amendment that forbids officials from holding office if they took part in an insurrection against the United States.

Expect debate on several important factual and legal matters, including whether Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol counts as an act of insurrection and whether the amendment covers presidents or only applies to lesser federal offices.

The hearing marks the first — but perhaps not the last — time the court will mull a question that will have an enormous impact on Trump’s legal and political future. And it also reflects just how deeply his campaign has become enmeshed with the legal system. In an example of that, the proceeding will take place on the same day as the Nevada caucuses, which Trump is expected to win, further solidifying his grip on the Republican nomination.

While the court’s decision will technically be limited to the question of whether Trump’s name can appear on the primary ballot in the state of Colorado, it will almost certainly have a much broader impact. Plaintiffs in several other states have also sought to bar him from running in November and are waiting for the justices to give them guidance on how to proceed.

The ballot case is separate from the four criminal cases Trump is facing in New York, Florida, Washington and Georgia, and from several of his civil proceedings. The hearing comes two weeks after Trump was ordered to pay $83 million in damages for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her decades ago. (A jury found him liable for sexual abuse.) And it could take place around the same time that a Manhattan judge enters a final ruling in a civil fraud case in which he has been accused of inflating the value of his real estate portfolio.

The punishments in that case are potentially severe: Trump stands not only to lose control of the company that he has run for decades, but is also facing fines of up to $370 million.

Trump has railed relentlessly against all his legal cases, lumping them together as a collective “witch hunt” supposedly designed to damage his standing at the polls. And while he has sought to paint himself as the victim of an unfair legal system, he has also repeatedly attacked the prosecutors and judges who have overseen the cases.

Even the justices of the Supreme Court have not escaped his ire. Trump’s aides have described him as being angry at the court, whose power balance he helped tilt to a conservative supermajority while president, for having failed to side with him on election-related issues. The aides have also said he is not optimistic that the court will rule his way should it entertain a review of a separate legal question: whether he enjoys immunity from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump has regularly attended the civil proceedings against him in New York, where his courtroom behavior has drawn stern rebukes from judges. His aides say he has considered attending the Supreme Court proceedings but is unlikely to follow through. However, he may resume his habit of turning court appearances into campaign stops in two weeks by showing up at a sealed hearing in a federal courthouse in Florida related to the case in which he’s charged with mishandling classified material and obstructing government efforts to retrieve it.

He’s also likely to attend a hearing that week in New York where the judge presiding over the Manhattan district attorney’s case charging Trump with covering up hush money payments to a porn star in 2016 will decide whether the case goes to trial in March.

It is still unclear how many of Trump’s four criminal cases will go in front of a jury before this fall’s election.

The immunity issue, which has stalled progress on the federal case charging Trump with seeking to overturn the 2020 election, is now being mulled over by a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, which could release a decision at any moment. But the panel, which had set a lightning fast calendar for briefings and arguments, now seems to be taking its time in rendering a decision.

Once the appeals court rules, the immunity arguments could end up at the Supreme Court, which could take any number of approaches. The court could decide to hear the immunity appeal quickly, it could assume a leisurely pace, or it could decline to take the question altogether. Depending on how the justices act, the election interference case could go in front of a jury in Washington as early as April or May or as late as 2025, after the presidential election.

Currently the case is set to go to trial in early March, but that is almost certain not to happen. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the matter, has already scheduled another trial in her courtroom starting April 2, all but ensuring that the election case will be delayed until the spring or summer at the least.

The timing of that trial will have a considerable ripple effect on two of Trump’s other criminal proceedings.

It is possible that if the election case is delayed until the summer, the Manhattan district attorney will jump to the head of the line and try Trump in late March on the hush money charges. In a similar fashion, a federal judge in Florida is waiting to see when the election subversion trial begins before she sets a trial date for Trump’s trial on charges of illegally holding on to dozens of classified documents after leaving office. In the fourth criminal case, in which a district attorney in Georgia has charged Trump and a cast of others with trying to overturn the election results there, the judge has yet to set a trial date.


We’re asking readers what they’d like to know about the Trump cases: the charges, the procedure, the important players or anything else. You can send us your question by filling out this form.

Does Fani Willis’s potential relationship with Nathan Wade matter? Or is it just a thing Trump’s lawyers have latched onto to take the attention off their client’s bad behavior? Caiti Schuster, New Jersey

Alan: As a legal matter, it’s unlikely that the Georgia case could be thrown out or otherwise damaged even if the allegations of an improper relationship between Willis and Wade turn out to be true. But as a practical matter, any scandal surrounding the district attorney who filed charges against Trump will give the former president an opportunity to attack his accusers — which he loves to do. It could also allow Trump to drag the case into the seamy tabloid waters that he has been swimming in for decades.


  • On Friday, the special counsel, Jack Smith, is scheduled to file papers responding to Trump’s unusual requests for additional discovery evidence in the case in Florida in which he stands accused of illegally holding on to classified documents after leaving office. Watch for prosecutors to push back on the attacks launched in his discovery filings against the intelligence community and other members of the so-called “deep state.”


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