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Supreme Court Sends Trump's Immunity Case to Lower Court
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By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
July 1, 2024

The Supreme Court's ruling delays Trump's 2020 election plot trial, granting limited immunity to former presidents and impacting the upcoming election. (AP/Susan Walsh)

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court extended the delay in the criminal case against Donald Trump on charges he plotted to overturn the 2020 election, reducing the chance that Trump could be tried before the November election.

In a historic ruling, the justices said Monday for the first time that former presidents can be shielded from prosecution for at least some of what they do in the Oval Office. But rather than do it themselves, the justices ordered lower courts to figure out precisely how to apply the decision to Trump’s case.

The immunity case was the last case argued, on April 25.

Here’s the latest:

Ruling Underscores Uncomfortable Role SCOTUS Is Playing in the Election

In a historic 6-3 ruling, the justices said for the first time that former presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution for their official acts and no immunity for unofficial acts. But rather than do it themselves, the justices ordered lower courts to figure out precisely how to apply the decision to Trump’s case.

The outcome means additional delays before Trump could face trial in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

The court’s decision in a second major Trump case this term, along with its ruling rejecting efforts to bar him from the ballot because of his actions following the 2020 election, underscores the direct and possibly uncomfortable role the justices are playing in the November election.

Court Sends Trump’s Immunity Case Back to a Lower Court

The Supreme Court extended the delay in the criminal case against Donald Trump on charges he plotted to overturn the 2020 election, reducing the chance that Trump could be tried before the November election.

In a historic ruling on Monday, the justices said for the first time that former presidents can be shielded from prosecution for at least some of what they do in the Oval Office. But rather than do it themselves, the justices ordered lower courts to figure out precisely how to apply the decision to Trump’s case.

The Supreme Court Rules for a North Dakota Truck Stop in a new blow to federal regulations

The Supreme Court just opened the door to new, broad challenges to regulations long after they take effect, the third blow in a week to federal agencies.

The justices ruled 6-3 today in favor of a truck stop in North Dakota that wants to sue over a regulation on debit card swipe fees that the federal appeals court in Washington upheld 10 years ago.

Federal law sets a six-year deadline for broad challenges to regulations. In this case, the regulation from the Federal Reserve governing the fees merchants must pay banks whenever customers use a debit card took effect in 2011.

Alito’s Flag Controversy Reignited a Discussion on Supreme Court Ethics

Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation to meet with Democratic senators in May to talk about Supreme Court ethics and the controversy over flags that flew outside homes owned by Justice Samuel Alito.

Roberts’ response came a day after Alito separately rejected demands that he recuse himself from major Supreme Court involving former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 rioters because of the flags, which are like those carried by rioters at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Both Alito and another conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, have rejected calls to recuse themselves from cases related to the 2020 election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Thomas’ wife, Ginni, supported efforts to overturn the election results.

One Possible Option for the Court

The justices puzzled during arguments on April 25 over where the line should be drawn, and though it seemed unlikely from their questions that they’ll adopt Trump’s views of absolute immunity, they did seem potentially poised to narrow the case.

One option would be to send it back to the trial judge, Tanya Chutkan, for her to determine which allegations in the indictment constitute official acts and must therefore be stricken from the case — and which do not.

That kind of analysis could be time-consuming and result in additional delays. However, by the same token, a more slender set of allegations could make the case easier for special counsel Jack Smith and his team to prosecute and eat up less time on the election-year clock.

Key Takeaways from Arguments on Trump’s Immunity Claims

In April, the Supreme Court heard more than 2 1/2 hours worth of arguments on the landmark question of whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in a case charging him with plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Some of the many notable moments included:

1. Talk of drone strikes and presidential bribes

2. Historic callbacks, with frequent invocations of the nation’s Founding Fathers

3. The 2024 election was the proverbial elephant in the room

Three Additional rRulings are Likely to Come Today

The justices also have three other cases remaining on the docket Monday, including another major case over social media laws in Texas and Florida that would limit how platforms regulate content posted.

Both laws aimed to address conservative complaints that the social media companies were liberal-leaning and censored users based on their viewpoints, especially on the political right.

The Timing of the Trump Immunity Ruling Could Be as Important as the Ruling Itself

The immunity case was the last case argued, on April 25. So in one sense, it’s not unusual that it would be among the last decided. But the timing of the court’s resolution of Trump’s immunity may be as important as the eventual ruling.

By holding on to the case until early July, the justices have reduced, if not eliminated, the chance that Trump will have to stand trial before the November election, no matter what the court decides.

In other epic court cases involving the presidency, including the Watergate tapes case, the justices moved much faster. Fifty years ago, the court handed down its decision forcing President Richard Nixon to turn over recordings of Oval Office conversations just 16 days after hearing arguments.

Even this term, the court reached a decision in less than a month to rule unanimously for Trump that states cannot invoke the post-Civil War insurrection clause to kick him off the ballot over his refusal to accept Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory four years ago.

A Decision on Trump’s Immunity Looms

In the last 10 days of June, on a frenetic pace of its own making, the Supreme Court touched a wide swath of American society in a torrent of decisions on abortion, guns, the environment, health, the opioid crisis, securities fraud and homelessness.

And, with the court meeting for the final time this term on Monday, an unusual push into July, the most anticipated decision of the term awaits: whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The court also will decide whether state laws limiting how social media platforms regulate content posted by their users violate the Constitution.

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