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Jack Smith Gets ‘Silver Lining’ From Supreme Court Ruling


Jack Smith Gets ‘Silver Lining’ From Supreme Court Ruling

There is a “silver lining” for special counsel Jack Smith after the Supreme Court ruled that former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution, an attorney has said.

In a historic 6-3 ruling on July 1, the nation’s highest court decided for the first time that former presidents have immunity for official acts, but not for unofficial acts.

The ruling, issued on the last day of the court’s term, extends the delay in the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump on charges that he plotted to overturn his 2020 election loss.

The decision sent the case back to a lower court, where U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who would preside over Trump’s trial, must determine what is left of Smith’s indictment.

Tristan Snell, a legal analyst and former New York assistant attorney who helped lead the prosecution against Trump University, discussed the case in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter. He wrote that the coming months “could be brutal” for Trump.

“WTF is going to happen now in the DC case after the Supreme Court immunity ruling? There is a silver lining here,” Snell wrote.

“Judge Chutkan now takes back over—with a ‘fact-specific analysis’ on whether Trump’s actions were ‘official acts’ or not,” he continued. “This could be brutal for Trump.”

Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesperson, told Newsweek that Snell “is a Democrat donor and operative who should not be trusted because he does not believe in democracy.” Newsweek has contacted Snell for comment via social media.

Smith’s case indicted Trump on four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, related to his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing.

The Supreme Court’s slow handling of the case has already helped Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, by making it unlikely that a trial would happen before November’s election. The trial, originally scheduled to start on March 4, was put on hold because of the immunity issue. Now, there is no set trial date.

Trump celebrated the ruling as a “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY.”

Newsweek has contacted the special counsel’s office for comment via email.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump during debate
Donald Trump at the CNN Studios in Atlanta on June 27. The coming months “could be brutal’ for Trump, one lawyer said.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Snell wrote on X that Chutkan has been “ordered to engage in proceedings to determine whether Trump’s actions were ‘official acts’ of the office of the President, or ‘unofficial acts’ of a candidate or citizen.”

“This not a trivial task,” he continued, adding that the details of every action Trump is accused of will need to be revealed.

“What he did, who he was with, where he was, when he did it, how he did it, and why he did it,” Snell wrote. “We need testimony from the people he was with. We need to see evidence.”

He said the fact-finding would require testimony from those with knowledge of the matters, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a key witness during the hearings held by the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Then, for each of those witnesses, there needs to be a direct examination, a cross examination, and a rebuttal examination,” Snell continued. “And virtually all of this will likely be held in open court.”

In his newsletter, Snell wrote that Chutkan would ask lawyers “to submit their evidence and arguments via a briefing schedule, and then she will likely hold a hearing. And given the volume of evidence and witnesses, this ‘hearing’ could last weeks. If not months. It would be tantamount to a trial, before the actual trial.”

Smith, he wrote, “should seize this opportunity for all it’s worth. This is a chance for the government to present most of its case, in court, open to the public and the press. In fact, in some ways it is even better than a jury trial, because the normal federal rules of evidence mostly do not apply to preliminary hearings. And they must not hold back.

“There is no more time for caution or half-measures: the key witnesses and key exhibits must be revealed. Let the public see Mike Pence take the stand. Or Mark Meadows. Let the public see at least some of the direct messages Trump sent to his co-conspirators on Twitter on January 6. Justice demands it.”

On X, Snell added that while Trump “may have gotten his wish on the LEGAL case” with a jury trial unlikely to happen this year, he is “NOT getting his wish on the POLITICS of this—the case is not going to disappear and suddenly drop out of the headlines.”

He added: “There will likely weeks—if not MONTHS—of hearings on the ‘official act’ questions. This summer and fall, right as the election nears.”

Snell concluded his series of posts with this: “Donald Trump may be avoiding LEGAL justice for J6, for now. But he faces serious POLITICAL accountability for his January 6 conspiracy.

“The rest is up to US—we need to VOTE, we need to MOBILIZE, and we need to PUSH the media to report on these vital proceedings.”

Update 7/2/24, 7:45 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to add comment from Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesperson.