Why was the Supreme Court so focused on what-ifs in Trump’s immunity claim?

During the Supreme Court’s immunity arguments, a majority of the Supreme Court seemed more concerned with the future what-ifs than the here and now. Is there anything that constrains them to confine themselves to the question before them? If they cannot do that in this case, we stand to lose our right to hear Trump’s other trials before the 2024 election.”

— Lori G., Kansas City, Missouri

Hi Lori,

The solely factor constraining the Supreme Court is the late Justice William Brennan’s “rule of five.” With 5 votes, the liberal justice said, you might accomplish something. And with six “conservative” justices on immediately’s court docket, they will afford to lose considered one of their very own and nonetheless type a right-wing majority. This imbalance is an effective commercial for court packing however, getting again to your inquiry, I don’t assume that straying from the query introduced is the largest drawback in Trump v. United States. Rather, the situation is the delay that the court docket’s dealing with of the case has already given the defendant.

First off, we should always do not forget that the question presented is: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” That’s a reasonably broad topic, not confined to Trump’s case alone. And that breadth isn’t uncommon. The court docket is theoretically involved with the implications of the rule that it fashions going ahead, versus the particulars of the case earlier than it. That’s how Republican-appointed justices seemingly soothed themselves in dodging discussion of the allegations towards their occasion’s de-facto chief (who has pleaded not responsible in all 4 of his legal instances). Instead, they focused on loftier notions. As Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch said at the listening to, they’re writing a rule “for the ages.”

Of course, the court docket doesn’t all the time try this. Recall Bush v. Gore, which tipped the 2000 election to the Republican. The court docket careworn there: “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.” The April 25 listening to in Trump’s case confirmed that immediately’s justices (some of whom worked as lawyers on the Bush side of that 2000 case) assume that presidential immunity likewise “presents many complexities.” But right here we’re, on the precipice of a hovering ruling for the historical past books (one which will, as soon as once more, simply so occur to benefit Republicans).

Whatever judicial philosophy the court docket claims to observe in Trump v. United States, the justices can’t ignore the influence that their selections had in delaying this case from going to trial. Those selections embody declining in December to take up the immunity situation early on at the authorities’s request; granting Trump’s appeal in February as an alternative of letting the case go to trial in March (it might have already been tried by now); setting a leisurely late-April hearing (the attraction might have already been determined as nicely); and now, embarking on crafting an immaculate resolution “for the ages,” whereas the clock ticks towards an election whose final result might result in Trump crushing this very case if he returns to the White House.

The drawback, then, is the court docket treating this case in some respects like a standard one whereas, at greatest, ignoring the actuality lurking inside. Regardless of whether or not now we have a “right,” as you set it, to Trump’s trials earlier than the election — and I’m not so certain we do, for causes I can clarify one other time — the Supreme Court’s actions have made such a trial in his Jan. 6 case more and more much less seemingly.

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