Supreme Court immunity ruling could delay or undermine prosecution of Trump’s other cases

The wide-ranging ruling on immunity, at the very least, will delay Trump’s remaining trials.

Published: July 1, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: July 1, 2024 11:25pm

The Supreme Court’s Monday decision on presidential immunity will likely delay former President Donald Trump’s January 6 case until after the election, but the ruling from high court could have wide-ranging impacts on the former president’s other cases, including in his Florida classified documents case and Georgia election case.

Regardless of how the ruling will impact these, more delays are expected as the 2024 presidential election fast approaches and it is increasingly unlikely that those trials will wrap up before then.

“Well, certainly the D.C. case slows down because pieces of it have been thrown out. So communications with the Department of Justice, which is part of that case, are deemed by the Supreme Court to be absolutely immune, communications with Mike Pence, regarding the counting of the electoral votes, has presumptive immunity, big pieces of that case are gone,” Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson told the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show on Monday.

“The court left open other pieces. So the lower court’s going to have to decide whether the actions Donald Trump took in giving a speech at a rally in…tweeting, in communicating with people at the state level, whether those are in fact, within the scope of an official act. And that's something to be determined, even if some of that goes forward,” he added. “So two big pieces of the case have been taken out that the lower courts going to have to go through a process of resolving what is left. And then of course, there'll be an appeal process. So the likelihood of this getting done in a trial before the election, I think is remote.”

Former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said Monday that the ruling of the court may apply to both the classified documents and the Georgia election interference case, potentially shaking up the pre-election timeline as new challenges and arguments are heard.

“Without a doubt, because immunity is immunity, not only from federal prosecution, but state prosecution as well,” Dershowitz told the “Just the News, No Noise" TV show when asked how broadly the decision could apply. “There could also be an argument about the Florida case, whether or not the president when he took with him some classified material was acted in a personal acting in a personal or public capacity. Probably that's a stretch, but the argument in Georgia is not a stretch at all,” he added.

Trump, who already argued in the classified documents case that he should have immunity for the actions alleged by Smith under a similar argument his team presented in the January 6 case, celebrated the high court’s ruling and hinted at his future legal strategy.

“BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY. PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!” the former president posted to Truth Social.

“Today’s Historic Decision by the Supreme Court should end all of Crooked Joe Biden’s Witch Hunts against me, including the New York Hoaxes - The Manhattan SCAM cooked up by Soros backed D.A., Alvin Bragg, Racist New York Attorney General Tish James’ shameless ATTACK on the amazing business that I have built, and the FAKE Bergdorf’s 'case.' PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!” Trump said in a separate post.

Trump’s legal team also called the ruling a “major victory,” according to CNN.

Furthermore, Trump's legal team put this strategy into motion Monday night after the ruling came down, notifying Judge Juan Merchan that the former president intends to ask the court to set aside the jury verdict from his New York hush money case last month. 

Trump will likely employ a similar strategy in the classified documents case. The legal team says the charges should be tossed out because his official acts are protected by presidential immunity. His team also argues the president possesses broad declassification powers that cover any possession of the documents post-presidency.

On the other hand, special counsel Jack Smith argues that because the document transfer happened after Trump’s term ended, he does not enjoy any immunity protections and had no power to declassify the documents. Smith charged Trump with 40 felony counts related to alleged mishandling of classified materials, including the willful retention of national defense information and obstruction.

Judge Eileen Cannon from the Southern District of Florida, who is presiding over the case, declined to rule on Trump’s immunity claim until after the Supreme Court came to a decision on the former president’s immunity claims. Now that the court has delineated immunity protections for official acts, Trump’s legal team is likely to file additional arguments supporting their position. Cannon has already shown herself to be amenable to additional evidentiary hearings before the trial moves forward. Critics have said this has already cased a significant delay in the trial.

Trump was originally charged in June 2023 with more than 30 counts of willful detention of classified documents and over 30 counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The indictment alleges that Trump ordered boxes containing classified documents transported to his Mar-a-Lago property after he ended his presidency at noon on Jan. 20, 2021. Smith claims that Trump subsequently shared classified information with individuals without a security clearance and attempted to obstruct the federal investigation.

The Supreme Court’s decision to distinguish between constitutional, official, and unofficial acts will require the lower court to parse out which alleged acts would be immune from prosecution.

"Under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of Presidential power entitles a former President to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority. And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion in Trump v. United States.

This is a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court, which has never before considered what immunities from prosecution a current or former president enjoy for their official actions while in office.

The Supreme Court’s ruling may also impact Trump’s pending case in Fulton County, Georgia. District Attorney Fani Willis charged the former president with a racketeering scheme under state law to undermine the results of the 2020 election in that state. Like Smith’s federal January 6 case, Willis’ case centers on the election and the former president’s efforts to allegedly change the outcome of the statewide election in Georgia—a swing state he lost.

“Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states,” the indictment reads.

Now, the Georgia court will have to consider whether the presidential immunity outlined by the Supreme Court Monday applies to the acts alleged in the indictment. Even if the court rules the case can move forward, the process is likely to delay the case even further. Willis’ prosecution has already faced delays from accusations of impropriety against her and her office which led to disqualification hearings. The Georgia Court of Appeals is expected to address filings from lawyers for Trump and his co-defendants in the case arguing she  should be removed from the case.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., believes that even though the Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to benefit Trump now, past and future presidents should support the decision.

“I think that the President in this particular case, the President's attorneys are probably looking at the decision and to see how it affects future cases or currently ongoing cases,” Perry told the John Solomon Reports podcast Monday. “And, and quite honestly, I think that President Biden and President Obama are probably looking at their future legacy and wiping their foreheads off in relief, because let’s…I mean, President Obama was accused of drone killing American citizens without, you know, without a warrant, without due process.”

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