Trump celebrates Supreme Court hearing as justices appear to doom Jack Smith prosecution

 April 26, 2024

The Supreme Court appeared to embrace Donald Trump's argument Thursday that presidents need to have some immunity from criminal prosecution to guarantee the stable functioning of government.

Trump, who spent the day in Manhattan for his hush money trial, celebrated the "monumental" Supreme Court news, which appeared to dash Jack Smith's plans to quickly prosecute Trump over January 6th.

Trump's Supreme Court win

Without immunity, Trump has warned, future presidents would be discouraged from acting boldly by the threat of partisan lawfare.

"That’s not what the founders had in mind," he said at the courthouse in New York. "We want presidents that can get quite amazing—quite amazing," Trump said.

While the Supreme Court sounded cool to Trump's sweeping assertion of absolute immunity, a majority of the justices showed some level of concern about leaving presidents exposed to politically motivated prosecution.

Justice Samuel Alito brought up the adage that a grand jury could be persuaded to indict a "ham sandwich" and asked Smith's lawyer, Michael Dreeben, if he knew of cases when a prosecutor was rebuffed. When he said he had, Alito quipped, "Every once in a while there’s an eclipse."

Echoing Trump, Alito also raised concern about unleashing a dangerous "cycle" of retaliation.

“If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement, but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?” Alito asked.

Ruling "for the ages"

Smith, who was present for the hearing, has repeatedly invoked a public interest in a speedy trial. But the justices noted several times that they are grappling with a historical question that will have impacts for generations.

Gorsuch noted they are writing a "rule for the ages," while Brett Kavanaugh similarly noted, "This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency and for the future of the country."

The court's deliberative tone has led many to anticipate that the case will be sent back to lower courts, which would likely end Smith's bid to put Trump on trial before the election.

Trump said the Supreme Court justices were "on their game."

"So let’s see how that turns out," he said. "But again, I say presidential immunity is very powerful. Presidential immunity is imperative, or you practically won’t have a country anymore."

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