CRIME

The Trump Docket: Victory appears likely at SCOTUS, but immunity is a much tougher hill to climb

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Donald Trump appears poised for legal victory after arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court weighing his removal from the Colorado presidential primary ballot in 2024 seemed to overwhelmingly go his way. But that warm embrace may be short-lived. The nation’s topmost appellate court also ruled against Trump this week, unanimously finding he is not immune from criminal prosecution, a decision that may trigger an ugly showdown back at the Supreme Court.

Law&Crime takes a look at those developments and others around Trump’s cases in Florida, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and New York.

2nd Amendment
WASHINGTON, D.C.

CRIMINAL

At the appeals court in Washington, D.C., this week, a unanimous panel declared: “Former President Trump has become citizen Trump” and rejected his claims of sweeping immunity from criminal prosecution in the district where he is charged with criminally conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s case in the nation’s capital is on hold for now following presiding U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision last week to vacate the trial date until after the appellate court’s ruling. It will remain in flux until the Supreme Court decides whether it will or will not hear the question of immunity. The appeals court withheld what is known as a “mandate” until Feb. 12 for Trump to file an emergency request with the Supreme Court. Legal eagles at Just Security offered an in-depth analysis on the potential timing this week.

CONSTITUTIONAL

Meanwhile, conservative and liberal justices alike appeared skeptical that Colorado state secretary Jena Griswold has the authority to disqualify candidate Trump from the ballot, leaning on a ruling from 1869 that many justices seemed to agree, determined only Congress has the power to disqualify officeholders.

With the Colorado primary on March 5, justices are under pressure to rule quickly but whether they will remains to be seen.

Left: The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in a case that will determine if Donald Trump may be disqualified for the 2024 presidential election due to his actions in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2024. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)/Right: Sam Rosbottom, spokesperson for UK-based gambling company Betfair, displays current odds from British bettors on the U.S. presidential race in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2024. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)

FLORIDA

CRIMINAL

Things grew tense in Florida after Donald Trump’s latest attempt to dismiss his indictment for allegedly retaining classified materials was met with a fiery request from special counsel Jack Smith that one legal expert said may be a “third strike” for U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon.

The request is known as a “motion for reconsideration” and in it, Smith contends the Trump-appointed judge has made “clear error” in an order that exposes witnesses — and possibly herself — to intimidation and harassment.

Cannon issued a paperless order on Feb. 9 giving Trump’s team until Feb. 23 to respond.

Smith’s patience appeared to be worn thin this week. In a separate motion in the Florida court, he dubbed Trump’s attorneys “relentless and misleading” in their attempts to delay or altogether avoid facing a jury.

They will “stop at nothing,” the federal prosecutor said.

OF NOTE: Trump appears ready to try his immunity argument in Florida in the coming weeks despite a fulsome takedown in Washington, D.C. and on Friday night, a woman who once threatened Judge Cannon, Tiffani Gish, was sentenced to 37 months in prison, court records show.

NEW YORK

CIVIL

In a scorching 30-page opinion from the judge who oversaw the defamation case brought against Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan explained at length why he had previously denied two mistrial requests from Trump’s attorney Alina Habba.

Kaplan reminded the parties that a mistrial is “[a] trial that the judge brings to an end without a determination on the merits because of a procedural error or serious misconduct occurring during the proceedings.” [Emphasis original]

Declaring this matter a mistrial “would not have ended this case,” Kaplan wrote.

The order to pay Carroll $83.3 million was also officially entered onto the docket this week

Left: Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives to federal court in New York, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP Photo/Seth Wenig). Right: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at the South Texas International Airport, Nov. 19, 2023, in Edinburg, Texas (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File). Inset: Donald Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, speaks to the media outside the New York City courthouse on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey).

CRIMINAL

Trump’s criminal trial over hush-money payments he paid to a porn star before the 2016 election is expected to start on March 25. But next week, a major hurdle must be cleared to see if that date will stick.

The presiding judge, Justice Juan Merchan, will decide whether the charges, as the former president claims, should be thrown out. Trump asserts they are hyperpolitical and inapplicable and that he has been selectively prosecuted.

OF NOTE: Should Merchan rule against Trump, it would seem that this will be the first criminal trial Trump faces in 2024.

GEORGIA

CRIMINAL

After Trump’s co-defendant Mike Roman filed 11 subpoenas in the RICO case seeking out documents and testimony from members of District Attorney Fani Willis’ office, she pushed back with a motion to quash, calling them a “spectacle.”

A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15 to weigh allegations by Roman (and Trump) that she and special prosecutor Nathan Wade ought to be disqualified due to a “conflict of interest.”

Fellow co-defendant David Shafer joined the call for Willis to step down in a massive 229-brief, saying “all of the causes for the disqualification are self-inflicted blows.”

Trump also doubled down on his accusation that Willis stirred up racial animus against him after her speech at a historic Black church in Atlanta last month for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Willis contends her comments never even mentioned Trump or the case; Trump’s lawyer has argued that “nothing could be further from the truth.”

OF NOTE: Trump’s Georgia co-defendant Rudy Giuliani this week claimed the Trump campaign owes him $2 million in legal fees.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 91 criminal felony charges in four venues. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty

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