The legal dramas surrounding former President Donald Trump have raised a significant question: Will Trump face election day as a convicted criminal? The potential consequences of a conviction before the vote are immense, both politically and legally. As a result, there is a race among prosecutors to conclude at least one of Trump’s four criminal trials before November 2024, while Trump is doing everything in his power to delay the proceedings. Special Counsel Jack Smith has made an unconventional move by urging the Supreme Court to expedite the process, aiming for a decisive legal showdown and the opportunity to convict Trump on charges carrying significant criminal penalties before the election.
Special Counsel Jack Smith has asked the Supreme Court to swiftly determine whether Trump is entitled to immunity in his Washington D.C. criminal case related to alleged attempts at election subversion. If successful, Smith’s bid could hinder Trump’s efforts to delay or defeat this case. The court has agreed to consider whether it will grant Smith’s request for an expedited decision on the immunity question, highlighting the significance of this particular case.
The dispute revolves around Trump’s appeal of a ruling by D.C. federal district court Judge Tanya Chutkan. Trump argued that as a former president, he should enjoy absolute immunity from criminal prosecution and be exempt from “double jeopardy” unless he had been impeached and convicted while in office. Judge Chutkan rejected these arguments, asserting that a former president can be investigated, prosecuted, and imprisoned for crimes committed while in office. She emphasized that the position of the president does not confer a lifelong exemption from criminal accountability.
Despite Trump’s handpicked majority on the Supreme Court, legal experts predict that his appeal of Judge Chutkan’s decision will fail. The court has not been particularly receptive to Trump’s attempts to secure personal legal favors in the past. However, the crucial factor is the speed at which the courts can reach a decision. Even if the Supreme Court ultimately rules against Trump, he could potentially delay his trial for months or even years through the appeal process.
The timing of Trump’s trial holds significant political implications. Recent polls indicate that Trump is leading President Joe Biden, even in crucial battleground states. However, many voters have stated that a Trump conviction would change their voting preferences. A New York Times poll revealed that approximately 6 percent of voters in key swing states would switch their votes to Biden if Trump were convicted. This figure could potentially impact the outcome of the entire election.
Furthermore, if Trump were to win the election, he could direct his future Attorney General to dismiss federal cases against him in Washington D.C. and Florida. He could also argue that the state cases in New York and Georgia should be put on hold, citing immunity from criminal liability as a sitting president.
The D.C. case is crucial as it offers the highest likelihood of Trump receiving a substantial verdict, possibly resulting in a significant prison sentence, before election day. The trial is currently set to begin on March 4, and Judge Chutkan has been firm in resisting efforts by Trump’s legal team to delay the timeline. She has even threatened to expedite the trial if Trump violates his gag order, which prohibits him from attacking witnesses.
While the D.C. trial appears to be on track, the timelines for Trump’s three other criminal cases in Florida, Georgia, and New York are more fluid. In Florida, Trump is accused of violating the Espionage Act by storing sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort. This trial is scheduled for May 20 and is overseen by Judge Aileen Cannon, who is perceived by many observers as more likely to indulge Trump’s requests and potentially postpone the trial beyond the election date.
The outcome of Trump’s criminal trials and the speed at which they are resolved will have significant implications for the 2024 election. The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the matter of intervening or not underscores the importance of the question at hand. As the legal battles unfold, all eyes will be on whether Trump can successfully delay his trials or face the possibility of being convicted as a criminal before the next election.