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No more criminal trials for Trump

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The combination of Merrick Garland’s initial lassitude, the rigging of the federal judiciary with Federalist Society hacks, and Fani Willis’s personal recklessness and poor judgment, have combined to pretty much ensure that Donald Trump won’t see the inside of another criminal courtroom prior to the election.

Cannon’s May 7 order set 14 pretrial deadlines, vacated the May 20, 2024, trial date that had been tentatively set, and just didn’t bother to set a new one. Her reasoning? Setting a trial date would be “imprudent and inconsistent with the Court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pre-trial motions before the Court, critical CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] issues, and additional pretrial and trial preparations necessary to present this case to a jury.” 

That sounds plausible until you remember that Cannon herself is solely responsible for delays in addressing pretrial issues. It’s the judicial equivalent of running around in a hot dog costume declaring that “we’re all trying to find the guy who did this.” Her behavior is so obviously favorable to the former president that one Republican close to Trump told Rolling Stone Cannon is his “favorite member of the Trump campaign,” while another Trump adviser called her “a godsend.” 

Meanwhile:

In addition to Cannon, Trump is getting help from the US Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his absurd immunity claim in the January 6 election interference case — one that Trump’s own lawyer admitted would allow a president to order assassinations of political opponents.

In December 2023, special prosecutor Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to take the question on an expedited basis but they declined. This meant that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals had to hear the appeal first. 

The DC Circuit ruled against Trump on February 6, 2024, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on February 22. Apparently, the Supreme Court didn’t see the issue as particularly pressing and set oral arguments for April 25. During oral arguments, the Court’s conservative wing signaled they didn’t necessarily buy the entirety of Trump’s immunity argument but, as Liz Dye wrote, they “seemed to think the question of whether the president has to obey the laws of this land is a major head scratcher.” 

The most cynical interpretation of the behavior of the Court’s conservatives is that they are not interested in giving presidents absolute immunity, but instead want to help Trump run out the clock. The right-wing justices will look rational by rejecting the outer limits of the immunity claim, but by dragging out a decision until the end of the term in June, they’ll have helped Trump push this case off until after the election. While the appeal drags on, judge Tanya Chutkan was forced to vacate the original trial date of March 4, 2024, and she will not set a new schedule until the immunity issue is resolved. 

There are still other pre-trial matters to be taken care of, which Just Security estimated could take three months, and the trial is estimated to take 8 to 12 weeks. Even if Chutkan runs the tightest ship imaginable after the case is sent back down and bats away every other ridiculous Trump claim, the timing just doesn’t work out. 

And to top off this trifecta of malfeasance:

The calendar also doesn’t favor the prosecution in the Georgia case, where Trump is charged with racketeering, false statements, forgery, witness tampering, and election fraud. However, where the classified documents and January 6 cases have dragged on with the assistance of Trump appointees, the roadblocks in the Georgia case are mainly the fault of the prosecutor, Fani Willis.

Willis hired her boyfriend, Nathan Wade, as a special prosecutor on the case, and when one of Trump’s co-defendants found out, he moved to dismiss the indictment and disqualify Willis. After a hearing in February, the presiding judge ruled the following month that Willis would not be disqualified. But Trump and eight of his co-defendants asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to allow them to appeal the decision, and last week, the appellate court agreed to hear the case. 

No dates for briefing or oral argument have been set. The appellate court has roughly six months to hear and decide the case, which means a decision could come as late as November. Also, the trial court judge will probably refrain from setting a trial date until this is decided.

Unless the Georgia appellate courts move with unusual swiftness, Willis’s misstep here handed Trump the considerable gift of delaying the trial past the election.

So everything hinges on the current New York state criminal trial. If Trump is convicted, my confidence that he is going to lose in November goes to pretty much 100% (It may be absurd, but every poll indicates this would have a massively negative effect on his chances, because it’s the kind of information that actually penetrates the skulls of “low information voters.”).

If it’s a hung jury, I really have no sense of how that cuts. An acquittal would be a devastating development, but I think the chances of that are very slim, which is kind of like saying the chances of your house burning down are very slim, but whatever. Except we have fire insurance but no fascism insurance.

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