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Legal experts say Jack Smith will likely run out of time to convict Trump before election

By Stew Davidson
|
March 1, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review former President Donald Trump's presidential immunity claims could delay his federal election interference trial, impacting the prosecution's timeline ahead of the 2024 election.

The court's decision this week to consider former President Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity in an election interference case has sparked a debate among legal experts. This review could potentially delay the case led by special counsel Jack Smith, posing a challenge to his desire to begin the trial ahead of the 2024 election, in which Trump is a likely GOP nominee, as Fox News reports.

Legal experts weigh in on trial timeline

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert and professor, expressed concerns about the shortened timeline for Smith to initiate the trial before the election.

The Supreme Court's review, according to Turley, could push the trial to the fall at the earliest, given the procedural steps that need to be taken at the district court level.

Turley said:

I think that most people still believe that Smith can prevail before the Supreme Court. But the most immediate impact is that the runway for Jack Smith just got a lot shorter.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a longstanding practice of avoiding actions that could influence elections, which further complicates the timing of the trial.

According to the agency's own policy manual, "Federal prosecutors and agents may never select the timing of any action, including investigative steps, criminal charges, or statements, for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the Department’s mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution."

Impact on the 2024 Presidential Election

John Shu, another constitutional law expert, highlighted the potential impact of the trial's timing on the 2024 presidential election.

He suggested that if any of Trump's trials were to begin before the general election, it could dominate news coverage, overshadowing other critical issues like the economy and foreign policy.

Shu also emphasized the importance of adhering to DOJ policies to avoid the perception of political influence, especially close to the election.

This adherence to policy could lead to a delay in the trial if it falls within a few months of the presidential election.

Shu suggested that Democrats want to start Trump's trial before the elections.

He said:

If that happens, the news coverage will be 'all Trump trial all the time,’ especially if it’s televised, and no one is going to be talking about the economy, illegal immigration, wars in Israel and Ukraine, Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan or super-high crime, gas prices, food prices and inflation. It’ll be worse than the O.J. Simpson trial. The way Jack Smith has been acting, it indicates that he has been keeping his eye on the electoral calendar.

Supreme Court's role in presidential immunity

The Supreme Court's decision to review Trump's immunity claims has brought attention to the boundaries of presidential immunity.

Turley noted that while Trump's broad claim of immunity might face challenges, the Supreme Court's review could establish significant precedents regarding the extent of protections afforded to a president.

Jim Trusty, former legal counsel for Trump, expressed skepticism about the argument of absolute immunity but acknowledged the possibility that the court might confirm some level of protection for presidential actions.

This decision could influence the outcomes of cases related to the Jan. 6 events and the Mar-a-Lago classified documents matter.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court's review of Trump's presidential immunity claims could delay his trial, potentially affecting its timing before the 2024 election.
  • Legal experts express concerns about the shortened timeline for the trial and the DOJ's practice of avoiding actions that could influence elections.
  • The trial's timing could significantly impact the 2024 presidential election, potentially overshadowing other critical issues.
  • The Supreme Court's decision on presidential immunity could set important precedents for future presidents.