U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Trump immunity appeal raises doubts he will face trial in Jan. 6 case

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear former President Donald Trump’s claim that he has blanket immunity could effectively allow him to avoid facing a jury’s judgment in the Jan. 6 federal election interference case before the fall election.

The conservative-dominated court’s ruling that it will only hear oral arguments on Trump’s appeal in late April means a trial would almost certainly be delayed until late September at the earliest, even if the Supreme Court justices shoot down Trump’s immunity claim, legal analysts say.

The case is expected to take about three months, meaning it would take a legal Hail Mary for Trump to face a verdict from a jury of his peers before Election Day.

“They have given Trump the win,” Andrew Weissman, a former federal prosecutor, said Thursday on MSNBC. “It’s very, very hard to see how this goes to trial before the election.”

The top court could have rejected the appeal and let stand a comprehensive and unanimous ruling by an appeals court panel rejecting Trump’s claim.

That would have allowed the trial to start as soon as late spring with a verdict possible by Labor Day.

The fact the court decided to schedule the case when it did — taking much more time than its hearing on the decision of a Colorado court to bar Trump from the ballot for violating the 14th Amendment — suggests to some political observers that they are intent on letting voters decide Trump’s fate, not a jury.

“The Supreme Court’s message to us is: ‘Hey voters, we’re leaving this up to you,’” Joyce Alene Vance, an Alabama law professor and former federal prosecutor, tweeted.

Some Supreme Court-watchers note that the two months before oral arguments is still a speedy time frame by the top court’s standards.

Those analysts dispute the notion that the court is letting Trump off the legal hook, suggesting that a trial could still be resolved before America goes to the polls on Nov. 5.

“SCOTUS schedule for Trump immunity argument leaves just enough time for case to be tried before the election,” Barb McQuade, another ex-federal prosecutor, said. “The expedited briefing and argument schedule indicate (the) court is working to uphold public’s right to a speedy trial.”

So what is the schedule for the case as things stand now?

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments the week of April 22. It could rule anytime after that but it’s likely it would only rule at the end of its session at the end of June.

If the court agrees with Trump, the case effectively dies.

If the justices reject Trump’s appeal, as most legal analysts across the political spectrum believe is likely, they would hand the case back to Judge Tanya Chutkan for trial.

Chutkan had originally set a March 4 trial date, but put all pretrial proceedings on hold in early December when Trump filed his immunity appeal.

Assuming she gives Trump’s defense the same amount of time to prepare for trial, that would be just under three months from the time the case resumes. That would mean a possible trial date at the end of September.

Prosecutors have estimated their case against Trump would take four to six weeks and Trump’s defense could take about the same time.

That means the election interference trial could still start before the November election, but would likely not be finished by the time Americans decide whether they want Trump to be the next president.

Trump has not said what he would do about the case or any possible conviction if he were to return to power. But he could seek to order the Justice Department to halt the case or even try to pardon himself.