The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding the federal election-interference charges against former President Donald J. Trump and the prosecutions stemming from the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The case questions whether defendants can be charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to corruptly obstruct an official congressional proceeding.
The decision to hear the case may complicate and delay Mr. Trump’s trial, which is currently scheduled for March in Washington. The Supreme Court’s ruling, expected to come in June, will likely address the viability of two main counts against Mr. Trump and could significantly impact efforts to hold him accountable for the violence of his supporters.
If the court rules in favor of the defendants, it could also invalidate convictions already secured against many of Mr. Trump’s followers who participated in the assault, dealing a significant blow to the government’s prosecutions of the January 6 riot cases.
The case the court will hear involves Joseph Fischer, who was indicted on seven charges for his role in the Capitol attack. Prosecutors allege that he assaulted the police while Congress was certifying the 2020 election results. Mr. Fischer sought dismissal of a portion of the indictment brought under the obstruction law, arguing that it was improperly stretched to cover the violence at the Capitol.
A divided three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the dismissal, ruling that the obstruction law applies to all forms of corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding. Three defendants, including Mr. Fischer, appealed to the Supreme Court to decide whether the law was properly applied to the Capitol attack.
The defense lawyers representing the Jan. 6 rioters argue that federal prosecutors have overused the obstruction charge and that many of the defendants were not acting “corruptly” as the law requires, but rather protesting what they believed was a stolen election.
The Supreme Court’s review of the obstruction charge may have significant implications for Mr. Trump’s election case and could impact the shape, scope, and timing of the trial. Regardless of the court’s ruling, Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to use the decision to argue for a postponement of the trial until after the 2024 presidential race.