Donald Trump, in Altanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024.

Donald Trump has reason to be happy. On Monday, July 1, a few days after Joe Biden’s trainwreck in their televised debate, the former president received some uplifting news. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court dominated by conservative members dealt a severe blow to the federal investigation into the coup attempt that led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

Asked to rule on Trump’s claim to full presidential immunity in connection with his past time in office, the Court did not agree to the request, which law experts considered unreasonable. But behind the subtleties of the decision, the victory is no less spectacular for the Republican candidate who sees the threat of a trial in this case recede. Trump can also look forward to favorable responses in the other investigations against him, in particular the one underway in Georgia concerning the pressure exerted on state officials in late 2020 to alter the outcome of the election.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the decision approved by six justices to three, pointed out that “the nature of presidential power entitles a former president” to “at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts.” This immunity must be absolute, he added, with regard to the core of his constitutional prerogatives. For his other official acts, in areas where he shares authority with Congress, he must also benefit from a form of “presumptive immunity,” which can only be waived on a case-by-case basis, in court, depending on the relevance of the evidence gathered by the prosecution.

Private doings are not covered by immunity. Three possible scenarios therefore emerge but without a clearly defined perimeter for the last two. Tanya Chutkan, the judge in the January 6 case in Washington, has been entrusted with an immense responsibility. But time is running out.

Special prosecutor’s investigation slashed

Behind the Court’s apparent caution and its defense of the separation of powers, the majority of justices are building a series of walls of varying sizes around the presidential institution, and therefore around Trump. Justice Roberts seems especially concerned about the possibility of politically motivated prosecutions of a president, disregarding the heart of the matter: an attempted coup. He worries about the intrusion of the judiciary into the executive branch and the dissuasive and disruptive effect that the threat of criminal prosecution would have on a president in key decisions.

The only major demand of the Trump team to be rejected by the conservative majority concerns the need to conclude impeachment proceedings in Congress before any criminal prosecution of a president. For the rest, the decision slashes certain aspects of the investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith. It finds, for example, that Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department at the time, to validate imaginary election fraud, falls within its essential prerogatives. Immunity.

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