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FEBRUARY 15, 2024
On the Prospect website
Southern Autoworkers Organize, Business Class Tries to Wallop Them
Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, face a coordinated attack on their organizing, but have learned from two prior losses. BY LUIS FELIZ LEON
It’s the Working Class, Stupid
John Judis and Ruy Teixeira want Democrats to focus on working-class interests and back off cultural radicalism. BY PAUL STARR
Q&A: Election 2024 Fake-Out
The FCC bans AI-generated robocalls, but deepfakes and other tactics could still disrupt the voting season. BY GABRIELLE GURLEY
Meyerson on TAP
The Wrong Trump Trial
Who really cares about the Stormy Daniels hush money? It’s the January 6th trial that matters.
Will no one rid us of these meddlesome prosecutors?

The announcement today that the trial of Donald Trump for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels will begin on March 25th means that the only Trump trial that actually matters—the one in which he’s been charged for inciting the January 6th insurrection to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election—cannot begin until late spring at the earliest.

Numerous polls have shown that a decisive share of voters who currently support Trump’s candidacy would switch their vote or not vote at all if he’s convicted of a crime before Election Day. I think that’s only credible, however, if he’s convicted of his January 6th insurrection offense.

Consider the consequences of his conviction in the other three cases. In the New York trial now set for next month, Trump is accused of shoveling cash to Stormy to ensure she’d shut up about their trysts. This has been all over the media for most of the past decade; I think it only confirms not only what Trump’s critics think of him but what his supporters—who acknowledge he’s a flawed servant of the Almighty—think of him as well. Nonetheless, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has been out to prosecute Trump for some time and now will claim a great deal of public attention to make a case whose significance pales to invisibility alongside that of overturning a presidential election. So, too, does the case of Trump’s decamping to Mar-a-Lago after he left office with reams of classified documents.

The Georgia case brought by Fulton County DA Fani Willis is decidedly more serious—or would be had she pursued it promptly. It came complete with a smoking gun: the recording of Trump asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" just enough Trump votes to overcome Joe Biden’s lead. But that gun has been smoking for three years now, during which time Willis expanded the case to include all manner of Trump machinations, thereby providing yearslong payments to the attorney (with whom she acknowledges having an affair) she engaged to prosecute the case, rather than entrusting it to anyone in her own office. Alternatively, she could have zeroed in on the phony Trump electors. By now, however, I fear any Willis-brought case that proceeds to trial will be subject to more coverage of Willis’s affair than of the crimes Trump and his stooges committed.

Which leaves the only case that I think actually could prompt some shift in public opinion should Trump be convicted, as this is the single most serious crime in American history: his instigation of January 6th, his hours-long refusal to make it stop, all in the cause of overturning a presidential election. Trump has argued that as president, he’s immune from criminal charges, but that argument has been resoundingly slapped down by a bipartisan appellate court and is now before the Supremes. Given the absence of any merit to Trump’s argument, the Court could rule quickly that the appellate court was right, which means that the trial could begin fairly promptly.

How promptly? The judges in l’affaire Stormy and l’affaire insurrection have apparently conferred, and decided that Stormy will go first, which means that the earliest that the January 6th trial could begin would be very late spring. By that time, of course, the primaries will have all but ended and the party conventions will be nigh. However, should the Court rule promptly that Trump enjoys no immunity (and given its promiscuous use of the "shadow docket," we know that the Court can speed things up when it wants to), maybe the New York judge and DA can be persuaded to get back in line and let the insurrection trial go first. Even if that doesn’t happen, a prompt ruling from the Court that presidents are not gods would at least ensure the insurrection trial proceeds before the election.

A great deal, then, depends on what the Court does over the next week (or weeks). One would expect Thomas and Alito to do Trump’s bidding, so this really comes down to the three justices Trump put there: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Assuming they have any regard for their own reputations, not to mention the law, they’ll rule, quickly, that Trump is mortal and not immune from the demands of justice.

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