Special Counsel Smith's early involvement of Supreme Court in Trump case could backfire

 December 15, 2023

Special Counsel Jack Smith has made it abundantly clear that he is dead-set on seeing former President Donald Trump stand trial and presumably be convicted and sentenced to prison next year ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

That intent is unmistakeable in Smith's "latest ploy to short-circuit the 2024 election," which involved the unorthodox leapfrogging of an appeals court to request swift intervention by the Supreme Court on the issue of Trump's claimed immunity from prosecution, according to a New York Post op-ed.

Yet, while Smith obviously hopes for a rapid ruling in his favor that keeps the scheduled March 4, 2024 trial start date on track, his move to the Supreme Court -- and other recent actions by the justices -- are just as likely, if not more so, to result in that trial start date being substantially delayed, perhaps even until after the election has concluded.

"Smith seems desperate to get to trial"

The Post noted that former President Trump, in response to the 2020 election-related federal indictment brought by Special Counsel Smith, argued that he retained his presidential immunity and protection from prosecution for actions taken while he was still in office, but presiding D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that argument.

Following the normal routine, Trump appealed the matter to the D.C. Circuit Court while Smith bypassed that important next step and went straight to the Supreme Court with his admittedly "extraordinary request" for a quick resolution of the immunity dispute so that the district court's schedule could resume.

Except, despite Smith repeatedly urging an expedited timeline in his petition, the Post observed that "he nowhere explains the need for speed. Smith’s bull rush only makes sense as an effort to get to trial before the election."

"With the trial dates of the other three pending criminal cases against Trump up in the air, Smith seems desperate to get to trial -- the one most likely to capture the public’s attention," the outlet added of the special counsel. "He would like to see Trump a convicted felon, perhaps sitting in a prison cell, by Election Day. If Smith cannot move forward soon, Trump might even be free to campaign rather than sit in courtrooms."

Trial placed on hold pending conclusion of appeals

Indeed, at the time Smith filed his petition, the Trump campaign said in a statement, "Crooked Joe Biden’s henchman, Deranged Jack Smith, is so obsessed with interfering in the 2024 Presidential Election, with the goal of preventing President Trump from retaking the Oval Office, as the President is poised to do, that Smith is willing to try for a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the Appellate Process."

The campaign added, "There is absolutely no reason to rush this Witch Hunt to trial, except to injure President Trump and his 150 million, at least, supporters. President Trump will continue to fight for Justice and oppose these authoritarian tactics."

Yet, as the Post's op-ed pointed out, Special Counsel Smith's tactic of prematurely involving the Supreme Court may have already backfired on him and will likely delay that March 4 trial start date he so clearly aims to adhere to.

ABC News reported Wednesday that Judge Chutkan, perhaps begrudgingly, granted a motion from Trump's attorneys to "stay" or place on hold the scheduled proceedings in the case, almost certainly delaying the trial start date, until the appeals have run their course -- assuming the case isn't completely dismissed if the high court determines that Trump does retain presidential immunity from prosecution for his charged acts.

In a statement Wednesday, a Trump campaign spokesman said of Chutkan's ruling, "This is a big win for President Trump and our rule of law, as it derails Deranged Jack Smith’s rush to judgment strategy of interfering in the 2024 Presidential Election in support of Joe Biden’s campaign."

Supreme Court could also strike down Smith's use of dubious "obstruction" charge against Trump, others

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Smith faces another separate and distinct threat from the same Supreme Court he prematurely petitioned for intervention, as the justices revealed on Wednesday that they have taken up a case that challenges a felony "obstruction" charge that the Justice Department has applied to former President Trump and hundreds of Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendants, according to the Associated Press.

If the Supreme Court rules that overzealous prosecutors stretched and misinterpreted the "obstruction of an official proceeding" statute -- which has typically only ever been applied to the destruction of documentary evidence in financial crimes -- then the prosecution of Trump and hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants will be significantly undermined and, in some instances, completely dropped for lack of an actual crime.

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