Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Trial Over Trump’s Attempted Insurrection on Jan. 6 Could Define Final Weeks of 2024 Election

As Trump faces Jan 6 and classified documents trials, experts warn of lasting damage to democracy regardless of outcomes.

January 6th insurrection
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As the year drew to a close in December, the Supreme Court opted not to address Donald Trump’s claim of absolute immunity, choosing instead to await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Upon receiving the appellate court’s verdict, the Supreme Court was under no compulsion to hear the case and should have directly affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Yet, almost two weeks later, the justices determined the necessity to review the case, scheduling the hearing for April 22.

However, this delay may not help Mr. Trump’s prospects. The Justice Department has clarified that its policy of avoiding the launch of new indictments or investigations within 60 days of an election does not apply to ongoing cases already scheduled by a court within this period. Consequently, cases poised for trial can proceed without regard to the electoral calendar.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan presides over the high-profile case related to the attempted insurrection on January 6th, 2021, and has significant discretion in setting the trial schedule. If the Supreme Court presents a ruling in May, Judge Chutkan could decide that the time lost since the December stay could be added back to the schedule. And that would allow the trial to begin on August 2nd.

Even if the Supreme Court slow-walks a decision on Mr. Trump’s immunity claim, the trial could still start by late September. This would mean the trial runs through the critical final weeks leading up to the 2024 election. Rather than focusing on campaigning, former President Trump may have to spend this period in court proceedings related to the 2021 Capitol attack that he allegedly orchestrated. And after his continuous delay tactics, that’s what he deserves.

With an August or September trial date, daily testimony on his statements and actions regarding the attempted insurrection could take center stage in news coverage during the fall campaign. Some experts estimate that an 8-week trial would go to the jury on September 27th, while a 12-week version could conclude on October 25th – just days before voters head to the polls. The schedule is still uncertain. But Judge Chutkan could significantly impact the ability of Mr. Trump to shape his public image ahead of the next national election. Voters may end up weighing more than just policy positions when they make their choice.

Mr. Trump’s trial in New York is scheduled to commence on March 25th. That trial focuses on allegations that he made illegal hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, aiming to prevent her from revealing their affair during his wife’s pregnancy. A guilty verdict on felony charges could significantly damage his reputation, as he would become the first former president convicted of a crime. Furthermore, there is the impending prospect that he will face trial on espionage charges before the election, stemming from allegations of improperly handling classified documents.

Ultimately, the trajectory and outcome of these cases carry profound implications for Americans’ views of their leadership and system of governance. Public trust stands at a crossroads. If Mr. Trump faces conviction, it could signal that no one is above the law, which is a critical aspect of our system of governance. However, if he secures acquittal or the cases drag on endlessly, it may reinforce conceptions of a privileged political elite circumventing consequences for misdeeds.

The American democratic experiment is under siege, teetering on the brink as it faces one of its most formidable challenges yet. Through these legal storms, the nation has an opportunity to reinforce the integrity of its institutions and leadership. But skepticism also simmers, threatening to undermine citizens’ belief in the system if it fails this test.

The upcoming months are more than a litmus test for Donald Trump as an individual; they are a crucible for American democracy itself. Mr. Trump embodies the antithesis of democratic values, making the resolution of these legal battles not just a matter of legal consequence, but a vital step towards healing a fractured nation. With a collective sense of urgency, the nation stands on the precipice, watching intently as the wheels of justice turn, poised to either restore faith in the democratic system or plunge it into deeper turmoil.