Trump immunity decision in balance as Supreme Court caps term

The Supreme Court is set to rule Monday whether former President Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution, a monumental decision that comes just days after the court issued a decision throwing into doubt charges against hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters and Trump himself.

The stakes are as high as Trump’s ask of the court is broad: The former president is pleading with the court to toss his federal Jan. 6 case with his claims of immunity.

While the court could well reject the sweeping immunity sought by Trump, several justices signaled an openness during April arguments to carving out some form of protection from criminal prosecutions for former executives.

“The question becomes — as we’ve been exploring here today, a little bit — about how to segregate private from official conduct that may or may not enjoy some immunity,” Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the court’s six conservatives, said in April.

The immunity decision comes on the heels of another Jan. 6-related case decided Friday that narrowed the use of the obstruction of an official proceeding charge levied against many of those who stormed the Capitol.

“Big News!” Trump wrote on Truth Social reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision.

It also follows Thursday’s presidential debate, where a shaky performance by President Biden left some Democrats more worried than ever that Trump would win the election in November and earn another four years at the White House.

The Supreme Court typically concludes its summer decisionmaking by the end of June, but it is headed into overtime to directly weigh in on Trump’s case, mulling whether he is immune from the charges altogether.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced Friday that “all remaining” Supreme Court opinions will come down Monday beginning at 10 a.m. EDT. The immunity decision will be issued along with decisions on three other cases that were heard.

The justices spent ample time in April questioning what actions would qualify as official ones a president might enjoy immunity for, compared to personal actions for which they would not.

Trump’s legal team suggested during arguments that a president ordering the assassination of his political rival could be protected from prosecution.

It seems unlikely the court will take the case to that logical extreme, but even a more nuanced ruling could hold benefits for Trump, who across all his criminal cases has embraced a strategy of seeking delay wherever possible.

The court might spell out a test for immunity that offers some protections for a former president, kicking the case back to the district court for Judge Tanya Chutkan to weigh whether Trump’s actions meet their criteria.

That could result in a lengthy battle where Chutkan determines Trump is still not immune from prosecution, facing appeal up to the high court yet again.

Trump has repeatedly proffered his immunity defense on Truth Social since April’s oral arguments, but with the justices having yet to announce their decision, the topic did not come up in Thursday’s presidential debate.

On Friday, the court also cast a shadow over one of the four charges Trump faces in the election interference case by siding with another Jan. 6 defendant fighting the same charge.

Five of the Supreme Court’s six conservatives, joined by liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, said the Justice Department had stretched the law too broadly, throwing into question at least one of the charges faced by more than 300 Jan. 6 defendants.

Trump is charged with violating the same provision of the law, Section 1512(c)(2), as well as another subsection of the same statute. He pleaded not guilty.

The Jan. 6 decision announced Friday remands the case of Joseph Fischer, a former police officer accused of storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, back to a lower court for further consideration.

In a concurring opinion, Jackson said the decision does not foreclose prosecution under Section 1512(c)(2), writing that the charge “remains available” for the lower courts to consider.

Other than Trump’s immunity case, the justices are also weighing the constitutionality of social media laws passed in Florida and Texas that restrict how large platforms can moderate content over conservatives’ concerns they were being censored.

And in a case closely watched by anti-regulatory interests, the high court will rule on when the statute of limitations clock begins ticking for challenges to government regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.