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Looking into the SCOTUS ruling on Trump's election eligibility

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Trump scored a legal victory today. The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the likely Republican nominee for president should be restored to the ballot in Colorado, and the decision says individual states cannot bar candidates for federal office under the insurrection clause. So this is a legal victory, also a political victory for Trump. And who better to walk through the state of Trump's legal and political challenges than NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro? Hey there, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey - good to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: OK, start with the politics. How big a victory is this for Trump that states cannot disqualify him on 14th Amendment grounds?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, bottom line is it means he's going to be on the ballot, you know, first for Super Tuesday tomorrow, which might be the biggest implication because he can acquire delegates from those states. In the general election, it's a little bit less so, you know, just from a numbers standpoint because the places where they were considering kicking him off were mostly blue states. Colorado, you know, used to be a swing state but has trended much more left in the past two decades. At most, it likely could mean missing out on one delegate in a congressional district in Maine, someplace he won in 2016. And, of course, every electoral vote matters when elections are this close. But more broadly, this is a big win for Trump because it's further proof that any remedy for those who want to keep Trump out of the white House is clear that it's not going to go through the courts, but it's going to have to rest in the hands of voters.

KELLY: OK, well, I want to step back and just tick through these cases. With the exception of the hush money case, the Stormy Daniels case, all of the prosecutors who have taken on Trump in court seem to be running into delays, into challenges. Start with the Georgia case. This is the election interference case. It has had issues that boil down to allegations of misconduct against the lead prosecutor.

MONTANARO: Yeah. And there's a pending decision in that case about whether DA Fani Willis can continue on in the case. And that's really crucial here because if she's kicked off, it's really unlikely that this case is going to go to trial before Election Day if it takes place at all. And this was one of the strongest cases against Trump because he had been caught on tape saying that he wanted elections officials there to find votes for him. But if Fani Willis is not kicked off, what I think all the attention that her ethics hearing received and teaches us - you know, it was playing out on cable TV for hours because cameras are allowed in the courtroom. What it teaches us is that a Trump trial in Georgia would play out like - kind of like an O.J. Simpson-style trial during the heart of a general election, again, if the timing works out. Now, I don't think that Willis will be cowed also, by the way, by questions of whether it's appropriate to hold a trial that close to an election considering how the Trump team has gone after her. But this is a sprawling case, and the timing could be tight to see if it happens before the general election at all.

KELLY: Let's scoot south to Florida, where we have the classified documents case and where, I gather, even prosecutors are now hoping to push things back. They're asking for a delay to July. Why?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I think they would have rather kept it earlier, but there's just been reams and reams of motions filed by Trump's defense team that have really gummed up the system. You know, they've ranged from wanting more of the classified material to outright wanting the case dismissed. Trump's team has succeeded in delaying this case and others, which is a huge part of the strategy from Trump's team because they want all of this punted until after the election. The prosecution now proposes July 8. Trump's team wants it pushed back even further than that until after the election but said that if the judge in this case - a Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon - doesn't want to do that, they proposed August 12. So we could see a trial in this case before the election. But Cannon has been far more friendly toward Trump's team than any of the other judges in any of the other cases, and they're all having to coordinate each other's calendars. So when one of these cases gets pushed off, there's a domino effect.

KELLY: OK, which brings us to the January 6 case, the federal January 6 case. Where does that stand?

MONTANARO: Yeah. And this one's tied up in the Supreme Court. And the speed with which the Supreme Court chooses to act is really going to determine whether this case gets heard at all before the election. And right now the court does not really want to appear to be moving all that quickly on this.

KELLY: Right. That's a separate issue from the ruling we got today but also before the Supreme Court. And it is to do with immunity. Remind us.

MONTANARO: Right. And the court did move pretty quickly on this 14th Amendment case, but the immunity case - really not that much. You know, the Supreme Court decided to take up the question of whether a former president can be tried for actions taken while president, and it didn't schedule oral arguments in this case until the week of April 22. That really enraged a lot of people who want to see a trial before the election in this really fundamental case. Now whether that happens at all really is in the court's hands.

KELLY: Domenico, so many moving parts here. But let me try to land us on something resembling the big picture because I just keep thinking, when this whole election cycle started, it seemed entirely possible we might be watching Trump running his campaign from a courtroom or running it from behind bars. Is that now looking less likely than it was a few months ago?

MONTANARO: Well, it's certainly looking a lot less likely than it did several months ago. You know, these indictments were brought last year. What Trump's team has tried to do repeatedly is dismiss, delay, distract. And they've gotten very good at being able to delay these cases, push them off and push them off and hoping to push them over the election cliff - really after the election on November 5, try to get it beyond that date. But there's the other possibility that they are going to run this roulette wheel and wind up having one or three of these cases - major cases right in the middle, in the heart of a general election. And if that were to happen, we know that a general election audience views Trump's conduct very differently than Republican voters, who are giving him so much money in the primary and really helping him to the nomination if he gets there.

KELLY: That would be a heck of an October surprise. We will steel ourselves for covering that. NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARTYAT4 SONG, "FWM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.