Mar 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Reality bites Democrats: Courts won't save them from Trump

Trump

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

For the second time in under a week, the Supreme Court delivered a major blow to Democrats' hopes that an act of legal intervention would derail former President Trump's chances of winning the 2024 election.

Why it matters: The sprawling efforts to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6 — including through impeachment, criminal prosecution and the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause — appear unlikely to ripen before November.

State of play: The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that individual states cannot bar candidates for federal office from their ballots, allowing Trump to remain on the ballot in Colorado and squashing similar disqualification efforts in Illinois and Maine.

  • Last week, the court agreed to hear Trump's claim of presidential immunity from prosecution — handing him a huge win by indefinitely placing his federal election interference trial on hold.
  • That trial was originally scheduled to begin on Monday; if Trump wins in November and hasn't been tried before Inauguration Day, there's a good chance he never will be.

Elsewhere across the legal landscape, Trump's delay tactics have found remarkable success.

  • In the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, Judge Aileen Cannon indicated Friday that Trump's federal trial in Florida won't begin in May as previously scheduled.
  • In the Georgia election interference case, a decision is pending on whether District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified over her romantic relationship with a prosecutor she hired.

The other side: Trump's hush money trial in Manhattan is still on track to begin on March 25, though it's widely viewed as the least serious of his four criminal cases.

The intrigue: Despite Trump's stretch of good fortune and polls, Biden remains optimistic that his message about democracy — which helped staunch a "red wave" in the 2022 midterms — will again prevail.

  • Explaining his theory of the case, top Biden adviser Mike Donilon said in a rare interview with the New Yorker that "the focus will become overwhelming on democracy" by November.
  • "I think the biggest images in people's minds are going to be of January 6th," Donilon predicted.
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