Ex-prosecutors say Trump appeal may be succeeding in delaying trial

By Jen Krausz on
 December 26, 2023

Former prosecutors weighed in on whether former President Donald Trump's appeal of a rejected immunity claim could very well succeed in delaying the trial on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election. 

Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor with decades of experience at the US Justice Department, said the decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal on an expedited basis before the federal appeals court does is a "huge setback for Jack Smith on the scheduling front."

"However, his request for expedited review was a noble attempt to move this trial along," he added. "Mr Trump, whose immunity appeal is not strong, will not face the 6 January music for multiple months."

Rossi thinks the trial may be pushed back to July or August, during or after Trump's likely selection as the GOP nominee for 2024, given that he has a 30 to 40-point lead in polling.

Does Trump have immunity?

At issue is whether Trump has immunity from prosecution on the charges since he was acting in his capacity as president to protect election integrity. In addition, he argued that double jeopardy applies to the case because the Senate already acquitted him of the same charges during an impeachment that took place after January 6, 2021.

Chutkan quickly rejected those arguments, hoping to keep the trial on track, but the appeal could take months to get heard by the Supreme Court even though the appeals court has decided to hear expedited arguments starting January 9.

Judge Tanya Chutkan has paused all proceedings while the appeal plays out, which makes sense because if the appeals court or Supreme Court decides that Trump did have immunity or that double jeopardy does apply, the case is effectively over.

Smith must be fuming about the delay, since he really wants to get a conviction against Trump before the election.

It could backfire

But as the BBC pointed out, even though all of their experts said the delay was a win for Trump, it could backfire for him if he ends up facing a conviction much closer to the election.

It could also end up hurting him if the case is hanging over his head as voting takes place.

Another problem is that Trump will need to be in court on a daily basis while also needing to campaign and possibly attend the Republican National Convention at the same time.

This is why Republicans have accused Smith, Chutkan and other partisans of election interference for bringing the charges and insisting on a timeline before the election.

So far, Trump has been helped rather than hurt by the indictment and three others that have him facing 91 total charges.

His supporters see them all as politically motivated and as an attempt to subvert the will of voters--a very serious offense in a democracy like the U.S.

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