All eyes on Supreme Court's high-stakes decision regarding Trump's immunity

February 12, 2024

The trajectory of Donald Trump's 2024 campaign will be impacted significantly by how the Supreme Court responds to his claims of presidential immunity. 

The court may be reluctant to get involved in such a high-stakes political case, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said.

If the court chooses to steer clear, they have an off-ramp from lower court rulings, Honig added.

All eyes on Supreme Court decision

The stakes are very high.

If the Supreme Court turns Trump down, there would be little stopping prosecutor Jack Smith from putting Trump on trial before the election. But if the court agrees to take Trump's case, the ensuing litigation could delay the trial past the election.

"If the Supreme Court does not take the case, then I think we're going to very likely have a trial sometime around the summer," Honig said.

"This could go either way, really," Honig said.

The Supreme Court wasn't "thrilled" to grapple with the issue of Trump's access to the ballot last week, Honig noted. The justices in that case appeared skeptical of the Colorado Supreme Court's judgment that Trump is disqualified under the 14th Amendment.

The justices might decide to walk away from another political bombshell - and the lower court rulings in the immunity case are "well-reasoned" and "strong" enough to let them do so, Honig said.

Trump just needs one vote

On the other hand, it's likely that some justices would want to take up the case, given its legal significance - and Trump only needs four votes to have the case heard.

With Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch likely to take the case, "they only need one, out of Roberts, Barrett and Kavanaugh," Honig said.

Recent polls show Trump with an advantage over Joe Biden, his likely electoral opponent in November, but a conviction could change that.

Last year, Smith urged the Supreme Court to consider the immunity issue on an expedited basis, but the court declined. Trump has accused Smith of trying to rush the case for political purposes.

Trump is unlikely to get a fair jury in Washington D.C., where over 90 percent of voters backed Joe Biden in 2020, so his best hope of avoiding conviction is for the trial to be delayed indefinitely.

Trump is expected to file his appeal to the Supreme Court before a Monday deadline.

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Thomas Jefferson
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