The Supreme Court dashes special counsel Jack Smith's hopes for convicting Trump

 April 28, 2024

Special counsel Jack Smith is facing yet another obstacle in convicting former President Donald Trump before the 2024 presidential election, Politico reported. The Supreme Court seems to be siding with Trump in his immunity claim, which would undermine Smith's case.

The court is mulling whether presidential immunity would apply in Smith's case against Trump for his role in allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The other case Smith has against Trump involving mishandled classified documents is similarly bogged down in legal challenges.

Proceedings Thursday seem to indicate both cases will stall out before the 2024 presidential election. During oral arguments, several of the conservative-leaning judges seemed to sympathize with Trump.

The court is split 6-3 in favor of conservative justices, including three who were appointed by Trump. Even if their decision doesn't help him directly, the delay could be all that Trump needs to thwart Smith's hopes of taking him out before November's election.

Justices Weigh In

The common theme among the judges was a concern that prosecuting a president after he's left office would set a dangerous precedent. "I’m not focused on the here and now of this case," Justice Brett Kavanaugh said.

"I’m very concerned about the future," the Trump appointee added. Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump also put on the bench, similarly took issue with the possible repercussions for future presidents.

"I’m not as concerned about this case so much as a future one. We’re writing a rule for the ages," Gorsuch pointed out.

The three left-leaning justices did not have the same concern, however. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, claimed she was worried about future presidents seeing the reluctance to prosecute as a license to commit crimes.

"The most powerful person in the world could go into office knowing that there would be no potential penalty for committing crimes? What disincentive is there for turning the Oval Office into the seat of criminality in this country?" Jackson asked.

Slow and Steady

The justices' strategy is to take a slower, more measured approach in coming to a decision, which might push Smith's case well after the election. Chief Justice John Roberts suggested sending the issue back to the lower courts to scrutinize the issue further.

Roberts, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, expressed skepticism about the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' unanimous decision against Trump's immunity claim. "Reliance on the good faith of the prosecutor may not be enough," Roberts said.

Regardless of how the high court ultimately decides, anything that can delay the trial is good for Trump. Some legal scholars believe Trump could pardon himself if he's elected president before the verdict, Axios reported.

The running theory is that presidential pardons are broadly granted through the Constitution for federal crimes and don't expressly prohibit a president from doing it for himself. However, Trump wouldn't have any recourse for state crimes such as his New York hush money trial under that same provision.

The former president is facing unprecedented legal battles. While the left was hoping to have him locked up or knocked out of the presidential race by now, the wheels of justice turn slowly for just this reason.

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