The Supreme Court and the Election

For six weeks in June and July 2022, a House committee held public hearings about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. During those hearings, millions of Americans heard new details about the efforts by Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the 2020 election result.

Less than four months later, Americans voted in the midterm elections — and rejected many of Trump’s favorite candidates. Republicans whom he had backed in primaries performed about five percentage points worse on average in the general election than other Republicans, a Times analysis found. The difference was large enough to decide several races.

The message seemed clear. Americans may be politically divided and (as I’ve written before) dissatisfied with both the Democratic Party’s liberalism and President Biden’s performance. But when voters focus on the anti-democratic behavior of Trump and his allies, a small but critical slice becomes less willing to vote for them.

This history feels particularly relevant after the Supreme Court issued a decision last week that will delay Trump’s federal trial for election subversion. The court agreed to hear Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution because the alleged crimes occurred while he was president. The justices scheduled arguments about his immunity claim for April, which is likely to push back the start of any trial until at least September. The court’s move reduces the chances of a trial verdict before Election Day.

In doing so, the court has almost certainly helped Trump’s campaign. He has made clear that delay is central to his strategy for fighting the cases against him. And for obvious reason: If he becomes president again, he can order the Justice Department to end any federal case against him.

The delays also make it more likely that he will become president again. The public will be less focused on his attempts to overturn the 2020 election if he isn’t on trial for them. Polls have also found that a significant share of Trump’s current supporters claim they will not vote for him if he is convicted.

As Nate Cohn, The Times’s chief political analyst, said to me: “The possibility that Trump would be convicted of federal crimes by the election was one of the better reasons to think the race could shift toward Biden. That’s looking less likely now, especially as the D.C. case seemed like the fastest and clearest path to a conviction.” And as my colleagues Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman wrote, “Trump’s delay strategy seems to be working.”

(Two other cases — a Georgia trial involving his attempts to overturn the result and a federal trial involving his handling of classified documents — have moved even more slowly. The charges in a fourth case — a New York trial set to start this month, involving hush money to conceal a sexual affair — may not seem as serious to many voters.)

The Supreme Court is not the only reason that the cases are moving slowly. Prosecutors in both federal cases and the Georgia case have moved with less urgency than some legal observers thought was savvy. And the Supreme Court justices will no doubt argue that they are merely following a reasonable timetable for an important case.

But the court has acted very quickly when dealing with past cases related to elections, including in Bush v. Gore in 2000. This year, by contrast, the justices have made two different decisions that have pushed back Trump’s trial for election subversion.

First, the justices rejected a request in December from Jack Smith, the special prosecutor, that they immediately consider Trump’s claim of immunity. The case was so important, Smith said, that only the Supreme Court could resolve it and should not wait for an appeals courts to hear it first. The justices said no to Smith.

Second, after the appeals court ruled against Trump, the justices agreed last week to hear his challenge — and scheduled the hearing for late April, almost two months from now. “The schedule the court set could make it hard, if not impossible, to complete Mr. Trump’s trial before the 2024 election,” Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for The Times, wrote. (I recommend this article by Adam, in which he explains the relevant history, such as Bush v. Gore.)

In a newsletter last week, I argued that the Supreme Court’s recent decision on diversity and high school admissions offered a reason for Americans to be less cynical about the court. On that subject, the justices seemed to be following a consistent principle across several cases. Sometimes that principle disappointed the political left, and sometimes it disappointed the right.

Last week’s decision feels different. When urgent action could help a Republican presidential candidate in 2000, the court — which was also dominated by Republican appointees at the time — acted urgently. When delay seems likely to help a Republican presidential candidate in 2024, the court has chosen delay. The combination does not make the court look independent from partisan politics.

Lives Lived: Robert M. Young’s subjects as a documentary director included civil rights sit-ins, sharks and the war in Angola. He died at 99.

Another record: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark has scored the most points in N.C.A.A. history — men’s or women’s. She scored her 3,668th with a free throw.

Broadcasting: The sports journalist Chris Mortensen was, for N.F.L. watchers of a certain age, the defining insider of his generation. He died at 72.

A full life in full looks: Iris Apfel, who referred to herself as a “geriatric starlet,” died on Friday at 102. Apfel, an interior designer, came to the fashion world late in life and went on to set trends in her 80s and 90s with her irreverent ensembles.

“She did not have much truck with stealth wealth or quiet luxury or the old axiom that elegance is refusal,” the Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman writes. “She believed, rather, in the virtues of muchness, of giving free rein to your inner extremism and letting your fashion freak flag fly.”

See more images of Apfel’s looks.

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