Jack Smith's sweeping January 6th indictment explodes: 'It's a real mess'

 July 3, 2024

Special Counsel Jack Smith's January 6th case against Donald Trump is in shambles after the Supreme Court's immunity ruling.

Legal analysts say the ruling leaves "a real mess" for the lower courts to sort out. The resulting delays likely will prevent Smith from bringing Trump to trial before the election.

Smith didn't do himself any favors by bringing such a sweeping indictment. He charges Trump with a grab bag of accusations about his conduct following the 2020 election. Smith included everything he could think of, including Trump's tweets.

Smith's indictment explodes

While the Supreme Court didn't kill the indictment outright, it did take out a huge chunk. Trump cannot be charged for pushing the Justice Department to investigate election fraud.

Trump is also "presumptively" immune over his interactions with Vice President Mike Pence following the 2020 election. On actions further from the president's core responsibility, like tweeting, the court left things open.

The Supreme Court did not finish the painstaking task of dividing Trump's "official acts" from his private ones. The court ordered the trial judge, Tanya Chutkan, to complete that analysis.

"The court's decision delivers a real mess for the trial court to sort out, while preserving the court's ability to second guess whatever they do," Greg Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University in New York, told Newsweek.

"I think it's a very messy opinion which provides little guidance to the lower court on how to proceed, except to recognize that the claims regarding communications with the attorney general must be dismissed, and the claims relating to communications with Pence will likely have to be dismissed."

Biden mad

The court threw up another roadblock in Smith's path: he can't use Trump's official acts as evidence that his unofficial acts were criminal.

The Supreme Court also said that courts may not consider motive when weighing immunity. This is a significant check against Smith, whose indictment is full of blanket assertions about Trump's allegedly corrupt aims.

Allowing an analysis of motive would "risk exposing even the most obvious instances of official conduct to judicial examination on the mere allegation of improper purpose," the court ruled.

For example, Smith alleged that Trump wanted "sham" investigations of election fraud. But this mere accusation is not enough to "divest the President of exclusive authority over the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Justice Department and its officials," the court found.

Smith has been desperate to resolve the case before Election Day, fearing Trump will drop it if he wins the presidency, although Smith has never admitted this explicitly.

Joe Biden reacted with fury to the court's ruling, conceding that it is now "highly unlikely" for Smith to prosecute Trump before the election. Biden whined that the Supreme Court is depriving voters of a criminal trial they "deserve."

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