Donald Trump’s legal team hasn't been secretive about its strategy of trying to slow down his election subversion case for as long as possible, and the Supreme Court could soon signal its willingness or aversion to being drawn into this latest gambit.
On Monday, Trump formally asked the justices to hit pause on a recent appeals court ruling that rejected his argument that he has presidential immunity for his actions in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 riot.
Here’s how the process will play out and the ways the court could handle the case:
Hear from prosecutors
The court has asked special counsel Jack Smith’s team for a response by next Tuesday to Trump’s request for a pause in the recent appeals court ruling against him on the immunity matter. The justices will not act until they hear from Smith.
Even inaction from the court further delays the proceedings in Trump's case because the trial can't move forward until the immunity claim is resolved.
No trial date has been set, and everything is effectively on hold anyway.
Smith might be expected to urge the court to deny Trump's request, but a complicating factor is that he told the justices in a December filling that they would need to decide the issue.
Decide to hear oral arguments and issue a ruling
The court could decide to treat Trump's request as a regular appeal, meaning it would schedule oral argument and issue a detailed ruling.
That could delay things and create more uncertainty around an eventual trial date depending on how quickly the court agreed to hear oral arguments and then issue a decision.
Grant Trump's request
The court could decide to resolve Trump's request without oral arguments and just grant a delay.
If that happened, the court would put out a short written order saying it has granted Trump's request. Usually, it would explain the circumstances under which the pause would expire.
Normally such an order would be issued to give Trump time to file an appeal of the lower court ruling, which could take months to resolve.
There could be dissents if the court goes that route.
Reject Trump's request
If the court decided to reject Trump's request for a pause, the case would go back down to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to proceed to trial.
But the trial wouldn't begin right away.
The judge would still need to take into account all of the time the case has been effectively on hold, since early December, and give both sides time to prepare for trial.
Even if the Supreme Court refused to grant Trump's request immediately and he goes to trial, he could still bring a challenge to his prosecution on presidential immunity grounds later.
Immediately rule against Trump
Some legal commentators have speculated that because it is such an unusual case, with time of the essence, the court could make the rare move of simply issuing a ruling upholding the appeals court decision without hearing oral arguments or asking for any further briefing.
Such an outcome would be based on the theory that, even if the justices think the appeals court ruling was correct, the Supreme Court should weigh in on the legal question because of the nationwide importance.