• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


Updated Feb 9, 2024, 5:11pm EST
icon

Semafor Signals

Supported by

Microsoft logo

Trump likely to win Supreme Court ballot case, legal experts say

Insights from Steve Vladeck, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal

Arrow Down
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago club on Feb. 8, 2024.
Getty Images/Joe Raedle
TweetEmailWhatsapp

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Former President Donald Trump is poised to win a U.S. Supreme Court case that would allow him to stay on state primary ballots despite his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, legal experts say.

The court appeared skeptical of the arguments for removing him during a Thursday hearing on the unprecedented case, which hinges on whether Colorado’s top court rightfully booted Trump from its ballot after finding that his actions during the Capitol riot amounted to engaging in an insurrection under the 14th Amendment.

The justices voiced concerns that if they allowed Colorado’s decision to stand, it would open a Pandora’s box, allowing states to disqualify candidates from ballots whenever they see fit.

The case has posed a headache for the Supreme Court – whose favorability ratings recently hit historic lows – raising concerns that the justices are wading into partisan politics.

icon

SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Legal experts predict Trump will win

Source icon
Sources:  
Eric Segall, Rick Hasen, Steve Vladeck

“Trump is going to win this case. Duh,” legal professor Eric Segall posted on X. Many legal scholars echoed Segall’s sentiment, noting that the way the justices asked questions indicated the decision may already have been made, and that some of the toughest questions of the day came from the court’s liberal justices, who are in the minority.

“Important to note that the liberal Justices are not pushing back on this argument about the federal interest here,” law professor Rick Hasen posted on X. “Suggests the cake is already baked.” Some took their predictions further, with Supreme Court expert Steve Vladeck posting that he thinks the court will rule somewhere between 7-2 and 9-0, specifically saying states “can’t unilaterally disqualify candidates running for President on the ground that they engaged in insurrection.”

‘Violence is likely no matter what happens’

Source icon
Sources:  
Politico, NPR

Numerous experts have raised concerns that the Supreme Court upholding Colorado’s decision could portend political violence by leading Trump’s supporters to react to perceived election interference. But actually, “violence is likely no matter what happens,” Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Politico. While she doesn’t expect another situation like Jan. 6 due to Trump’s dwindling power to draw large crowds, he will still likely incite violence in some form with his historically explosive rhetoric, Kleinfeld said.

Most experts concur that the court has no good options in this decision. “Whatever pathway the country takes between now and, let’s say, mid-2025 is one characterized by a very high risk of political violence,” law professor Aziz Huq told NPR.

This case could further undermine the court’s legitimacy

Source icon
Sources:  
The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal

Allowing Trump to be removed from state ballots would undoubtedly spur a firestorm over whether the Supreme Court ruled fairly, but allowing him to remain could have a similar outcome, court-watchers have argued. If the court sides with Trump “it will also be opening the gate for his stated intention to abrogate the constitution to establish a dictatorship in the future,” a former adviser to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton wrote for The Guardian.

Historically, the court has sought to stay out of political questions that could make it look like it’s meddling in elections. But the current court has not been able to avoid the issue, with other Trump-related cases waiting in the wings for consideration. And if Trump is reelected, the partisan accusations may only get stronger: “Of course, if President Trump wins the election, the Supreme Court may confront the most explosive political question of all: Can a president pardon himself?” Jeffrey Rosen, President of the National Constitution Center, wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

Semafor Logo
AD