US Supreme Court’s move to hear Trump’s immunity claim gives him gift of delay

A view of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 March 2024
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US Supreme Court’s move to hear Trump’s immunity claim gives him gift of delay

  • Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory over him because he was president when he took those actions
  • Some legal experts criticized the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, for undue delay

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court appears likely to reject Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for trying to undo his 2020 election loss, according to legal experts, but its decision to spend months on the matter could aid his quest to regain the presidency by further delaying a monumental criminal trial.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory over him because he was president when he took those actions, a sweeping assertion of immunity firmly rejected by lower courts.
But the Supreme Court’s decision not to schedule its arguments on the issue until late April reduces the chances that a trial on election subversion charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith could be finished before the Nov. 5 US election. Trump is cruising toward the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat.
Some legal experts criticized the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, for undue delay.
“They could have set a more aggressive briefing and argument schedule, as Smith requested,” University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman said. “The immunity claims are also outlandish. They could have been rejected on the papers (legal briefs) if they wanted to be the one to decide it.”
“They’ll reject his immunity bid,” Litman added, but forecast that the soonest a decision would come is May.
Legal experts said the justices would need to rule by about June 1 to leave enough time for Trump’s trial on the charges to wrap up before Election Day.
Smith, seeking to avoid trial delays, had asked the justices on Dec. 11 to launch a fast-track review of the immunity claim. Trump asked the justices to not expedite the review, and on Dec. 22 they did what he requested, opting to let the matter play out in a lower court rather than resolving it right away.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 6 upheld US District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s Dec. 1 ruling rejecting the immunity claim. Trump on Feb. 12 asked the Supreme Court to freeze the D.C. Circuit ruling. On Feb. 14, Smith asked the justices to reject Trump’s bid to further delay the matter. It took the court two more weeks before it announced it would hear arguments in the matter, which it scheduled for the week of April 22.
The trial had been scheduled to start on March 4 before the delays over the immunity issue. Now no trial date is set.

Four prosecutions
The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. A March 25 trial date has been set on charges in state court in New York involving hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. It is unclear when the other criminal cases will go to trial.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases, seeking to portray them as politically motivated.
“I should not have to go through any fake prosecutions before the election,” Trump wrote on social media on Feb. 19.
A criminal conviction could harm Trump’s election chances. In Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls, a quarter of Republicans and half of independents said they would not vote for Trump if a jury convicted him of a felony.
If he is elected and becomes president again next January, he could order an end to this case and a second brought by Smith concerning Trump’s handling of classified documents — or seek to pardon himself for any federal convictions.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who worked with Trump during the 2020 campaign, said of the delays in the trial timeline as the Supreme Court resolves the immunity matter: “It’s hard to overstate what a victory this is politically for the Trump legal team and for Donald Trump.”
“This is a great benefit to Trump in terms of the timeline of these cases, and how they may interact with the election, particularly in the fall,” O’Connell said.

Slowing things down
University of Michigan law professor Barbara McQuade, a former senior federal prosecutor appointed by President Barack Obama, said that a time frame for the election subversion trial “is manageable as long as the Supreme Court acts promptly, and remains mindful of the public’s right to a speedy trial.”
McQuade added that “it seems likely that the court will uphold the D.C. Circuit ruling against Trump.”
“I think that Trump’s arguments are pretty thin,” added Georgetown University law professor Erica Hashimoto.
Chutkan has promised to give Trump about 90 days to prepare for trial once the case returns to her courtroom, with a trial expected to last six to eight weeks. For a verdict to come before the election, the trial would need to start by around Sept. 1, McQuade said.
UCLA School of Law elections expert Richard Hasen said that if the Supreme Court’s ruling comes in late June, “it is not at all clear that there could be a trial before the election.”
“I’m also skeptical the judge would make Trump go to trial if he’s the general election candidate on the Republican side,” Hasen added.
Hasen forecast that the Supreme Court “is likely to reject Trump’s immunity argument on the merits.”
Delaying the trial gives Trump more time to rally supporters around his claim that the charges were politically motivated, an assertion that Reuters/Ipsos polls show is broadly held by Republican voters.
Some experts cite Trump’s long-established record of making strategic use of court delays for legal and political advantage.
Hasen noted that “given the weakness of Trump’s position, it’s reasonable to ask whether this is simply an attempt, now more likely to be successful, to run out the clock.”

 


Funeral held for British aid worker killed by Israeli strike

Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli attack in April. (WCK)
Updated 15 sec ago
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Funeral held for British aid worker killed by Israeli strike

  • One of Henderson’s brothers, Matt, said that the aid worker had achieved “so much in his life in a short period of time”
  • “To lose someone of James’ extraordinary character and decency overshadows the pain,” cousin said

LONDON: The funeral of a British aid worker killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza has taken place in Cornwall, England, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in the Israeli attack in April.

WCK founder Jose Andres accused Israel of targeting his workers “systematically, car by car” after the attack, claims that were dismissed as “nonsense” by Israeli Minister of Economy Nir Barkat in comments to BBC News.

The killings drew widespread international condemnation and US President Joe Biden accused Israel of not doing enough to protect aid workers and civilians.

An Israeli investigation into the attack blamed a series of “grave errors” by Israel Defense Forces officers, and WCK rejected the investigation as lacking credibility.

One of Henderson’s brothers, Matt, said that the aid worker had achieved “so much in his life in a short period of time,” the BBC said.

His cousin, Helen Moran, spoke on behalf of Henderson’s parents and thanked the people who gathered to pay their respects at Truro Cathedral. About 700 people attended the funeral.

“The family has been deeply moved by the outpouring of support during this difficult time,” Moran said.

“This support has been a source of comfort and a reminder of the impact Jim had upon so many people.

“A son, a fiance, a brother and a friend leaving us at such a young age is always a tragedy.

“To lose someone of James’ extraordinary character and decency overshadows the pain,” she said.

Henderson’s other brother, Dan, said: “I don’t really think we knew how wide a scope of Jim’s friends and people that he had real connections with until something like this happens ... it makes us very proud.”

The grieving family had asked people who wanted to pay their respects to line the route and join them in the cathedral.

Bishop Hugh Nelson said that the service marked a farewell and “the celebration of a good life well-lived.”

Henderson’s role was to ensure the WCK aid convoy traveling in Gaza followed safety procedures and remained on the correct route. The former Royal Marine had been in the territory for just over a week when he was killed.


British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4

Updated 12 min 12 sec ago
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British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4

  • Move could prove risky for Sunak as his Conservative party lags behind Labour Party in opinion polls
  • Sunak, who took office less than two years ago, has increasingly become isolated in even his own party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a national election for July 4 on Wednesday, saying Britons would be able to choose their future in a vote his Conservatives are widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.

Ending months of speculation as to when he would call a new vote, Sunak, 44, stood outside his Downing Street office in pouring rain and announced he was calling the election earlier than expected, a risky strategy with his party far behind Labour in the opinion polls.

Almost shouting to be heard above an anthem associated with the Labour Party played by protesters just outside the gates to Downing Street, Sunak listed what he said were his achievements in government, not only as prime minister but also as a former finance minister.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” he said, describing that choice as one between stability with him and the unknown with Labour leader Keir Starmer.

“Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote, I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk.”

In an attack on Labour, he said that Starmer, conversely, always took the “easy way out” and had no plan. “As a result, the future can only be uncertain with them,” he said.

Sunak heads into the election not only far behind the Labour Party in the polls but also somewhat isolated from some in his party, increasingly dependent on a small team of advisers to steer him through what is set to be an ugly campaign.

But he seems to have decided with some economic gains, such as inflation falling and the economy growing at its fastest pace in almost three years, now was the time to take a risk and present his agenda for a new term formally to voters.

The former investment banker and finance minister took office less than two years ago, and since then has struggled to define what he stands for, becoming increasingly frustrated that what he sees as his successes have failed to be appreciated.

ATTACK LINES

Both parties have all but kicked off campaigning for an election, with the attack lines on the economy and on defense already firmly drawn.

Sunak and his government accuse Labour of being poised to increase taxes if in government and that the party would not be a safe pair of hands for Britain in an increasingly dangerous world as it lacks a plan, charges the opposition denies.

Labour accuses the government of 14 years of economic mismanagement, leaving people worse off, with a series of chaotic administrations that have failed to give the stability businesses have craved to spur economic growth.

If Labour win the election, Britain, once known for its political stability, will have had six prime ministers in eight years for the first time since the 1830s.

Labour said before the announcement it was more than ready for an election.

“We are fully ready to go whenever the prime minister calls an election. We have a fully organized and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election,” Labour leader Starmer’s spokesperson told reporters.

Starmer kicked off his party’s election campaign last week by pledging to “rebuild Britain,” setting out the first steps he said Labour would take if it forms the next government.

Labour is running about 20 percentage points ahead of Sunak’s Conservatives in the opinion polls but some party officials are concerned their advantage is not as solid as it appears, fearing many voters remain undecided.

Sunak might be aiming to capitalize on that uncertainty and also to wrongfoot Labour, which has still to complete the selection of all its parliamentary candidates, a party veteran said.

Sunak will also hope that some economic gains and the first flights in his centerpiece immigration plan of sending illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda might also boost his party’s fortunes. The earliest possible date for those flights is June 24, 10 days before the election.

While some Conservatives welcomed the move to call an election, not all were happy.

“Death wish 2024,” said one Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity.


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

Updated 4 min 10 sec ago
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

  • “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said
  • The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set July 4 as the date for a national election that will determine who governs the UK, choosing a day of good economic news to urge voters to give his governing Conservatives another chance.
“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s center-right party has seen its support dwindle steadily after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of crises including an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.
The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party.
Speculation about an imminent election mounted after Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon – rather than the usual Tuesday – and Foreign Secretary David Cameron flew back early from a trip to Albania to attend.
The election will be held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers making risky English Channel crossings from Europe.
The announcement came the same day official figures showed inflation in the UK had fallen sharply to 2.3 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.
The drop in April marks the greatest progress to date on five pledges Sunak made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had climbed to above 11 percent at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the new figure as a sign his plan was working.
“Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” Sunak said Wednesday. “Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.”
Voters across the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current favorite. The party’s momentum has built since it dealt the Conservatives heavy losses in local elections earlier this month.
The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.
Following on his party’s successes in the local elections, Starmer, 61, last week announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of soaring inflation as he tries to win over disillusioned voters.
He also pledged to improve border security, recruit more teachers and police and reduce lengthy waiting lists at hospitals and doctors′ clinics across the country.
Elections in the UK have to be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to call an election. The last one was in December 2019.
Many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight.
Sunak had been noncommittal about the election date, repeatedly saying — as late as lunchtime on Wednesday — that he expected it would be in the second half of the year.
Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.
He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.


France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

Updated 22 May 2024
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France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

  • “France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said
  • Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo

PRAIS: France said on Wednesday conditions were not right to officially recognize a Palestinian state and that such a decision must be more than just symbolic or political posturing.
Remarks by Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne distanced France from Ireland, Spain and Norway, which said on Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, hoping to accelerate efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza war.
“France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said after talks in Paris with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo, but should be part of a broader effort to achieve a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis.
Despite lobbying by several European countries and some Arab states to recognize a Palestinian state, France has said that doing so would do little to change the situation on the ground without genuine negotiations.
“This is not just a symbolic issue or a question of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool in the service of the solution of two states living side by side in peace and security,” Sejourne said.
French diplomats say symbolic recognition will be of no use, especially without real momentum toward a political process supported by the United States, Israel’s main ally.
France has been working on a draft UN Security Council resolution that it hopes to table over the summer.
It wants to bring the parameters for talks on a two-state solution back to the Security Council, while also underpinning clear condemnation of Islamist militant group Hamas after the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. The negotiating process has been moribund for a decade.
The US believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations and not unilateral recognition, and has the power of veto at the United Nations.


India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave

Updated 22 May 2024
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India on ‘red alert’ over severe heatwave

  • Heatwaves reached dangerous levels in India, Asian countries since April
  • High mercury expected to impact livestock, land transport, power supply

NEW DELHI: Delhi and other parts of northern India were on the meteorological department’s highest alert over severe heatwaves on Wednesday, with temperatures in some regions expected to soar over 47 degrees Celsius.

The India Meteorological Department forecasts heatwave conditions to persist until the end of the week and issued a severe weather warning, known as the “red alert,” in the Indian capital region and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and West Uttar Pradesh.

Delhi officials ordered schools to shut on Tuesday as parts of the city recorded temperatures above 47 degrees Celsius. Though summer temperatures often peak during May in India, IMD director-general Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said the warning was necessary for the general public.

“Any heatwave conditions must be taken seriously because it can cause mortality or morbidity if care is not taken,” Mohapatra told Arab News on Wednesday.

The IMD has warned of the “very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heatstroke in all ages” due to the high temperatures. It added that “extreme care” was needed for vulnerable people and that citizens should drink sufficient water even if they are not thirsty.

“People should be under the shades, they should take water so that there is no dehydration,” Mohapatra said.

The severe heat is expected to impact not only people but also livestock, land transport, and the country’s energy supply.

“There is heavy demand in the power sector — there was the highest demand in Delhi yesterday — so therefore there could be disruption in the power supply,” he added.

Santwana Biswas, a domestic worker from Noida on the outskirts of Delhi, is among those who have been dealing with power disruptions in their neighborhoods.

“The electricity situation in my locality has worsened, with the night passing with just a couple of hours of electricity. Imagine, how can I sleep in this heat without a fan? I have not been able to get proper sleep for at least a week now,” Biswas told Arab News.

“Heat hasn’t allowed me to function normally. I am dragging myself just to save my job.”

Heatwaves, most likely fueled by climate change, have been reaching dangerous levels across India and other Asian countries since April, with eastern India experiencing its hottest April on record and reporting deaths related to soaring temperatures.

Saloni Kumari, a housewife in Delhi, said the heat was disorienting.

“Even early in the morning, you don’t feel comfortable going for a walk or doing any work. Air conditioning at home does not work properly when you have high temperatures,” she said.

“Life has become disoriented in this heatwave.”