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Unravelling the Legal Consequences of Trump’s ‘Insurrection’: How Far will the Supreme Court Take it?

The U.S. Supreme Court stands as the ultimate arbiter of the nation’s laws, and it is with apprehension that many Americans watch as the court faces the issue of whether or not the President can be held personally responsible for his involvement in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The argument against President Donald Trump is that his incendiary and lies about a fraudulent election led directly to the riots that took place and resulted in five fatalities. To hold the President responsible legally would be unprecedented and mark a monumental shift in how the Supreme Court interprets the limits of the executive’s power. It would also settle the matter of whether the President can be held to account for his actions. The legal case against the President is centered around whether he acted inconsistently with his oath of office to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution,” as required by the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the focus is on his speech given at the Ellipse before the mob stormed the Capitol. President Trump’s remarks, though concerningly vague, appeared to give implicit consent to the idea that the election was fraudulent and that those assembled should “fight like hell” and “walk down to the Capitol.” The question before the Supreme Court is whether the President’s speech could be considered a breach of his oath of office, and thus be punishable under the constitutional provisions against insurrection and sedition. It is an open and complex question with thousand-year-old roots and a constellation of legal interpretations. The Supreme Court’s respnse to this question will have far-reaching implications for our democracy. It is unclear which direction the Court will take, as it is traditionally reluctant to intervene in matters of presidential accountability. And yet the Court’s decision could provide a crucial measure of accountability in the wake of insurrections that have shaken the foundation of our republic. It could act as a stern warning to future presidents, reminding them of the limits of executive power and the consequences of breaching the contract they make with the people of America when they take office. Regardless of the result, however, the implications this case carries for our nation’s future are clear: We live in a democracy and the rule of law serves as a bulwark against tyranny. The Supreme Court’s ultimate decision on the President’s involvement in the insurrection will be essential in determining how we view the power of the Presidency in the future.