Donald Trump's Ga. indictment will be impacted by Monday's SCOTUS ruling – Atlanta News First

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Donald Trump's Ga. indictment will be impacted by Monday's SCOTUS ruling – Atlanta News First

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – The massive organized crime indictment of Donald Trump and 13 other GOP co-defendants in Georgia was impacted by Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held the former has absolute immunity for his core constitutional powers and that former presidents are also entitled to at least a presumption of immunity for their official acts.
In a historic 6-3 ruling, the justices said for the first time that former presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution for their official acts and no immunity for unofficial acts. But rather than do it themselves, the justices ordered lower courts to figure out precisely how to apply the decision to Trump’s case.
The decision, according to CBS News, will impact special counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump in Washington, D.C., where the former president has pleaded not guilty to the four charges he is facing.
In their decision, justices determined that as long as presidents are acting in their “official” capacities as executives, they can enjoy immunity from prosecution. The definition of that, however, they will leave to lower state courts, where Trump is facing trial in two of his remaining criminal cases.
Trump’s attorneys in his Fulton County case, who had no comment on the ruling Monday, have already tried to get his charges dismissed on the grounds of presidential immunity.
“The lower courts are going to have to figure that out on their own, in addition to Judge McAfee here in Fulton County who will also have to make that determination,” said Georgia State University constitutional law professor Anthony Kreis. “I think what (SCOTUS) did was gave basically ground rules for what the lower courts should do in determining whether the acts were official or not. They’re very loose guardrails, it’s a blueprint at most.”
The ruling could have impacts on presidential administrations to come for decades.
“A really smart president who is up to no good has some license to do that criminal activity that they didn’t have yesterday,” said Kreis.
In her dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted the potentially dangerous lengths to which a president could test the limits of immunity as spelled out in Monday’s ruling.
“Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune,” she wrote. “Let the president violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.”
The decision could also have consequences for two other cases involving Trump: one, also brought by Smith, in south Florida involving Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and a second brought by prosecutors in Fulton County related to Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state.
The immunity case, according to the Associated Press, was the last case argued before the nation’s high court, on April 25, but the timing of the court’s resolution of Trump’s immunity may be as important as the eventual ruling.
By holding on to the case until early July, the justices have reduced, if not eliminated, the chance that Trump will have to stand trial before the November election, no matter what the court decides.
In other epic court cases involving the presidency, including the Watergate tapes case, the justices moved much faster. Fifty years ago, the court handed down its decision forcing President Richard Nixon to turn over recordings of Oval Office conversations just 16 days after hearing arguments.
Even this term, the court reached a decision in less than a month to rule unanimously for Trump that states cannot invoke the post-Civil War insurrection clause to kick him off the ballot over his refusal to accept Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory four years ago.
Delaying the start of trials has been a primary goal of Trump’s lawyers in all four criminal cases against him. Only one trial has been held and it resulted in his conviction for falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment made during the 2016 presidential election to a porn actor who says she had sex with him, which he denies. Trump is the first former president to be convicted of a felony.
The Georgia Court of Appeals put a stay on all proceedings in the Fulton County election interference case involving Trump and his GOP allies.
A stay means that all hearings, arguments, rulings and other matters are on hold until the court of appeals rules on matters it is currently hearing, including whether to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from prosecuting the case. The court is also reviewing an appeal for charges dropped in the election interference case.
In August 2023, Willis indicted Donald Trump and 17 of his GOP allies on charges they engaged in an organized crime-like conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. Four of those 18 originally indicted have already reached plea deals with Willis’ office.
But in early January, a series of explosive allegations surfaced when Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants, and Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, accused Willis and then-special prosecutor Nathan Wade of having an improper relationship. Both Willis and Wade have since acknowledged a romantic relationship.
The allegations that Willis had improperly benefited from her romance with Wade upended the case for weeks. Intimate details of Willis and Wade’s personal lives were aired in court in mid-February.
In March, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee – who has drawn the case – rejected defense efforts to remove Willis and her office over her romantic relationship with Wade, but he did give the defendants permission to seek a review of his decision from the appeals court. In his ruling, McAfee wrote Willis must remove Wade from the racketeering indictment if she were to remain on the case.
Wade resigned just hours after that ruling.
On April 1, Trump and several of his remaining co-defendants formally appealed McAfee’s ruling allowing Willis to remain on the case. That appeal came after McAfee gave the green light to allow such an appeal over his decision. The appeal was signed by all of the attorneys representing the remaining co-defendants who have not already settled the case in Fulton County Superior Court.
The Georgia Court of Appeals’ docket for case number A24I0160, also known as DONALD JOHN TRUMP ET AL V. THE STATE, said the appeal will be heard during the court’s August 2024 term. Per the court’s website, all cases docketed to this term must be decided by March 14, 2025.
The August term ends on Nov. 18, 2024. The court’s argument calendar for August, September and October does not yet list a date for Trump’s appeal.
Both Biden and Trump are the respective, presumptive Democratic and GOP nominees for president, setting the stage for an historic rematch of their 2020 campaigns. They have been polling well within the margins of error for every poll thus far in the election season, making Georgia a virtual toss-up.
In 2020, Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes.
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