A respite: On the Trump case  

Trump gets legal relief as challenges to his candidacy recede 

Updated - March 01, 2024 08:51 am IST

Published - March 01, 2024 12:10 am IST

Former United States President Donald Trump appeared to receive a measure of legal succour from the country’s Supreme Court after it agreed to hear in mid-April the arguments for and against his right, as an erstwhile serving President, to immunity from federal criminal prosecution for allegedly subverting the 2020 presidential election. This means that a trial is unlikely before May and a decision on the case could be returned by the end of June, the time when final rulings for the current session of the court are expected. The court’s move adds considerably more time to the calendar of prosecution cases against Mr. Trump, and has effectively spoiled the plans of Special Counsel Jack Smith, leading these cases for the Justice Department, who had urged back in December last year that the Justices immediately take up the case, without any other intermediate court action. Earlier in February, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had ruled that Mr. Trump did not enjoy sweeping immunity from federal prosecution, a legal setback for his defence team, which was appealed. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the lower court’s ruling against Mr. Trump will remain on hold until it decides the issue. In an alternative scenario the Justices might have declined Mr. Trump’s request to pause the case, which would have given Mr. Smith the option to proceed more quickly with the prosecution in the election subversion case, improving the odds of a trial before the presidential election in November.

There is a plethora of legal cases against Mr. Trump, including four criminal indictments, all of which will be impacted by the timing of the ruling on presidential immunity. Notably, the Supreme Court Justices also appear poised to reverse a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that banned Mr. Trump from being on presidential ballot under a constitutional provision precluding those aiding an insurrection from holding high office in government. Other than the legal morass that looms on the horizon in light of the delaying tactics employed by the Trump defence team, the battle over prosecuting Mr. Trump has laid bare the fault lines in American politics, with voters divided on his capabilities and the potential risks he poses. Democrats and Republicans have come up short in terms of finding any credible alternatives in terms of nationally popular leaders, making the 2024 election Mr. Trump’s to lose. Therein lies the true malaise at the heart of the American Dream today — the lack of a vision that could unite all Americans under a single political banner. This would require leaders who are able to take a long view of the U.S.’s position as a global power, and one that provides for all its people regardless of their identity.

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