By:
February 9, 2024

Will Donald Trump actually be kept off the ballot come November because of his actions before and during the Jan. 6 insurrection?

Don’t count on it.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on the case, and it sounds as if the court is unlikely to keep Trump off the ballot. That seems to be the general consensus of news coverage following Thursday’s arguments based on the Colorado Supreme Court barring him from that state’s ballot.

MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said on air, “Here there is clearly, I think, five votes, if not nine votes that are going to reverse this case. … There was a lot of concern about having a state have the power to interfere with a federal election. It’s not a state interfering with a state election. Should they really be able to weigh in on this?”

Weissmann flat out said, “Big takeaway is this is, I think, going to be a win for Donald Trump and a loss for Colorado.”

Former U.S. acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal agreed, going on MSNBC and saying, “So, you know, I’ve watched over 400 Supreme Court arguments. I’ve done 50 myself. I would tell you this argument did not go well for the Trump challengers, and that’s to put it mildly. I probably have some other adjectives that I won’t say on air.”

Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for The New York Times, wrote the court “seemed poised on Thursday to issue a lopsided decision” in favor of Trump, noting, “There was very little discussion of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol or of Mr. Trump’s role in it. But a majority of the justices indicated that individual states may not disqualify candidates in a national election unless Congress first enacts legislation.”

This didn’t just run down perceived political lines among the justices. The New York Times’ Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage wrote, “Two of the court’s three liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, joined their conservative colleagues in displaying doubts about allowing a state to decide who can run for a national office.”

The takeaways story by Feuer and Savage is an excellent breakdown of what happened, and what we can expect moving forward.

Politico’s Zach Montellaro and Kyle Cheney wrote the court “seemed incredibly skeptical of the attempt to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot.”

There’s no timetable for when the Supreme Court will announce its opinion, but the justices are expected to move rather quickly — given that they, generally, seem to be in agreement. Those who brought the case asked for there to be a ruling by March 5 — the date of the Colorado primary and Super Tuesday.

A panel of CNN commentators said it appeared the Supreme Court was “looking for an off ramp” to allow Trump to stay on the ballot. Apparently, they didn’t have to look too hard.

Gershkovich discussed during Carlson-Putin interview

Tucker Carlson aired his two-hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and it went about as you would have expected.

The Washington Post’s Francesca Ebel wrote, “By the end of the conversation, it was clear that Putin had no intention of ending his brutal war against Ukraine. But Carlson, who was sacked from Fox last year, seemed ready to surrender. Putin offered to keep talking. Carlson, evidently exhausted by the Russian leader’s longwinded conspiracy theories and grievances against the West, thanked him and called it quits — far short of the media coup that he had been touting.”

Ebel added, “Carlson spent most of the two-hour interview in silence, or looking confounded. He did not ask a single question about Russia’s attacks on civilian areas or critical infrastructure in Ukraine, which have killed thousands. There was no mention of the war crimes facing the Russian leader, for the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Absent too were questions on Russia’s sweeping political crackdowns on Putin’s critics or the long jail sentences meted out to ordinary Russians staging antiwar protests.”

The topic of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich did come up. Gershkovich was jailed in Russia in March 2023 on charges of espionage — charges vehemently denied by the Journal and the U.S. government, which considers Gershkovich “wrongfully detained.”

Putin continued to insist that Gershkovich was a spy, saying he was “caught red-handed when he was secretly getting confidential information.”

In a statement, the Journal said, “Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release.”

During the interview, Putin shut down Carlson’s suggestion to release Gershkovich as a goodwill gesture. However, Putin said it was likely Gershkovich would probably be released in a prisoner swap at some point, and that discussions have been held. But there is still no time frame for his release.

Putin said, “I also want him to return to his homeland, at last. I’m absolutely sincere. But let me say once again: The dialogue continues. The more public we render these things of this nature, the more difficult it becomes to resolve them. Everything has to be done in a calm manner.”

The Journal said, “We’re encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom.”

And now for other media news, tidbits and links for your weekend review …

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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