Did Donald Trump spark an insurrection? Try to steal an election? Should he be barred from running for the White House again? Is a former president immune from prosecution?

Those are just some of the weighty questions that the US courts are grappling with as the 77-year-old real estate tycoon seeks a second term in the Oval Office.

The slew of criminal and civil cases facing the former Republican president has thrust the judiciary into the uncomfortable position of being an arbiter in an election year in a white-hot political arena.

"This isn't the kind of fight that courts generally relish," said William Howell, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. "And yet, here we are."

Trump is facing felony charges over his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and his role in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by his supporters, exactly three years ago.

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He is also accused of mishandling top secret documents after leaving the White House and faces state charges in New York for paying election-eve hush money to a porn star.

And those are just the criminal cases.

Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, noted that courts are "asked to decide tough questions all the time."

"But there's no question it feels more acute when you're dealing with these questions ahead of a presidential election, including questions that could be decisive such as whether or not the candidate gets to run in the first place."

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That is the question the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Friday, taking on an appeal by Trump of a ruling by Colorado's top court that would keep him off the Republican primary ballot in the western state.

The Colorado Supreme Court barred Trump from the ballot citing an amendment that bans anyone from holding public office if they engaged in "insurrection or rebellion" after once pledging to support and defend the Constitution.

The courts are no stranger to ballot access questions, Muller said, "but they're usually marginal candidates, independent candidates, third party candidates.

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"You're not dealing with the frontrunner for the nomination."

Howell said the nine justices on the Supreme Court, three of whom were appointed by Trump, will certainly factor the political climate into their eventual ruling.

"You can bet that the judges, when trying to think about whether or not they want to strip him of the candidacy, will be thinking about how the political dynamics are going to play out," he said.

- 'Absolute immunity' -

The conservative-dominated Supreme Court may also have to weigh in on Trump's claim that as a former president he enjoys "absolute immunity" from prosecution.

That is an argument Trump's lawyers have advanced in a bid to throw out the federal case charging him with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

The District Court judge in Washington who is to hear the election conspiracy case, currently scheduled for March, has rejected the immunity claim and it is pending before an appeals court.

Muller said the courts are navigating largely uncharted waters when it comes to the immunity question.

"No former president has ever been indicted before, much less in four different places, and tried to make those assertions of immunity," he said.

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Trump's legal woes have highlighted another fact about the courts, Howell said, which is that they tend to move very slowly.

"And that figures into Trump's strategy, which is to try to delay, delay, delay with the hopes that he'll actually win the presidency and all this will go away," he said.

If Trump wins the November election, he could conceivably pardon himself or move to have the charges against him dismissed.

Besides the criminal cases, Trump is also embroiled in civil actions.

Trump and his two eldest sons are accused of business fraud in New York for inflating the value of their real estate assets to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

The former president was also found liable last year of sexually abusing and defaming a magazine writer and ordered to pay $5 million in damages.

Trump's legal woes do not appear, however, to have dented his popularity among the Republican rank-and-file and he remains the overwhelming favorite to capture the party's presidential nomination.

Trump has used the indictments to drum up political support, portraying them as "election interference" by a Justice Department "weaponized" by Biden, his likely November opponent.

After he became the first ex-president to have his mugshot taken -- in Georgia, where he is charged with racketeering -- Trump embraced the photo of him glaring at the camera as a fundraising tool.

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Comments (6)

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trumpty dumpty
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what about trumpy dumpty running as pootie boys deputy,he could make russia great again,i hear pootie has a vacancy

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trumpty dumpty
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does jan 6th ring any alarm bells?now what hapened back then?

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trumpty dumpty
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how does trumpy run for election from a courthouse,huston we have a problem,com check,trump would make a great deputy leader for north korea,yep lets make north korea great again,how about that one huston,hello huston are you home,com check over and out

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Joseph Swanson
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trump is NO friend to Ukraine.  trump will backstab Ukraine.  trump is working on his "24 hrs. plan" through backdoor deals with russia.  trump's idol reagan did the same...backdoor deal with Iran.  In this case, the better deal will be russia will be allowed to keep ALL current occupied Ukrainian land and Ukraine government will be forced to accept it under trump presidency.
October 2007: trump said putin’s doing a great job
December 2011: trump praised putin’s “intelligence” and “no-nonsense way” in his book “Time to Get Tough.”
June 2013: trump wonders if putin will be his “new best friend”
October 2013: trump says putin is outsmarting the US
October 2013: trump says putin is outsmarting the US
Oct. 11, 2015: trump says they had good ratings together
Nov. 10, 2015: trump reiterates that he and putin “were stablemates”
Dec. 17, 2015: trump returns putin’s praise
Dec. 18, 2015: trump defends against allegations putin has ordered the killings of journalists
Feb. 17, : trump says he’d be “crazy” to disavow putin’s praise
April 28: trump says maybe they’ll get along
July 29 2023: trump calls for conditioning Ukraine aid on congressional Biden probes.  Ironically enough, trump was impeached already for having blackmailed Ukraine the first time by holding aid.

https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-quotes/index.html
https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/03/politics/trump-putin-russia-timeline/Presidency Zelenskyy

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American Chris
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No one, including President Trump, have been charged with insurrection yet Colorado Supreme Court convicted Trump of insurrection without Constitutionally required "due process". No due process is a Constitutional basis for US Supreme Court to overturn Democratic party government officials' acts to keep Trump off ballots. Trump hating Democrats have filed the many false court cases in hopes of stopping Trump's reelection and thus have dragged the courts into politics.

HIMARS JACK GRIFFIN and American "Ruzbot" Chris
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@American Chris, Ruzbot Chris at it again. He also enjoys pissed stained dead dogs, at Putin's beckon call.

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Imokru2
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Does anyone seriously think that these charges would be advanced against a former President if he were a retired citizen living out his golden years? Of course not.
All the charges are advanced by supporters of the president who is currently in office, in other words, these charges are motivated by partisan politics.
The case before the Supreme Court is an easy one to decide. In a perfect world, the vote would be 9-0 in favour of Trump.
The dems say that Trump is guilty of insurrection, but there is a problem with that - Trump has never been charged in court for insurrection. He has never been convicted of insurrection.
On the night in question, a minority of his supporters said that they were going to the House to protest.
Trump told them to do it peacefully, then he went back to the White House. One person died that night. It was a Trump supporter who broke into the building and who was shot by a policeman using more force than necessary to stop the intruder.
Trump was not involved and it certainly was not an insurrection.
Those advancing all the false accusations should be facing court cases of their own.

RUZBOT DESTROYER
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@Imokru2, Ruzbot too lazy to call himself "American"?

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RUZBOT DESTROYER
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@Imokru2, Trump tries to pick up charges, since it gets morons to send him money. It's a business model. Fooling dumbasses like you is his business.

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