Why the Supreme Court Should Clear the Way for a Pre-Election Trump Trial

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that Colorado could not keep Donald Trump off its presidential primary ballot, it proved at least one thing: The court can decide a case both quickly and with a keen eye to the political calendar.

The court handed down its decision just one day before Super Tuesday, when voters in Colorado (and Maine) were slated to cast their primary ballots. Through different processes, both states determined that Mr. Trump had engaged in insurrection, and therefore that he was constitutionally ineligible to serve as president and could not appear on the ballot. The states had put their determinations on hold pending Supreme Court review, which meant Mr. Trump remained on the ballot. For the court to not rule on the core question of the former president’s eligibility would have suggested that it was determined to protect the Republican presidential contender quietly, through inaction, without taking any political heat.

But the court issued a decision, just three and a half weeks after arguments. Whatever the decision’s shortcomings — and to my mind there are many — the court took a position, and it did so in a way that allowed democratic participation to occur with full information about who, in the court’s view, was eligible to appear on the ballot.

This was not the first time that the court has shown sensitivity to the political calendar. The court is often acutely aware of political time when deciding cases before it. That is why the timing of Mr. Trump’s immunity case has come under intense scrutiny.

That is also why, for the Supreme Court to fulfill its central role in our constitutional system, it must dispose of Mr. Trump’s arguments quickly — critically allowing for fully informed democratic participation in the November presidential election.

In other words, in the Jan. 6 case brought by the special counsel Jack Smith, as important as what the court decides is when it decides. Slow-walking the case would be tantamount to a ruling for Mr. Trump in one important respect: It would likely eliminate the chances of a pre-election trial and verdict in the most serious of the four criminal cases pending against him — one that is at the heart of and has deep consequences for the integrity of our democracy.

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