Republican Former Members of Congress: Courts Should Move ‘As Quickly As Possible’ to Resolve Trump Cases
An open letter.
“EQUAL JUSTICE BEFORE THE LAW” IS A BEDROCK PRINCIPLE of our legal system and our democracy. It is rooted in a fundamental proposition of this country’s founding: That we are a nation of laws, not of men, and accordingly no man is above the law.
As former members of Congress, all of us Republicans, we dedicated ourselves to upholding this principle. And we are now deeply concerned that former President Donald Trump’s response to the ongoing criminal prosecutions against him are testing it—requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to act swiftly to meet the moment. In no case is this more true than in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Trump for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In this case, the federal courts are confronted with Trump’s gambit to escape accountability altogether: assert an unprecedented claim of absolute presidential immunity from criminal prosecution and use the appellate process to delay the trial until after the November election.
The accusations against Trump are grave. A grand jury charged him with conspiring to overturn the election and deprive millions of Americans of the right to have their votes counted. These are serious charges for any person to face. They are existential for our democracy when the defendant is asking voters to re-elect him to the presidency.
Trump is entitled to his day in court. He has the same rights and protections as any defendant, including the limited right to appeal certain legal issues before his trial can proceed. But no criminal defendant has the right to unreasonably delay his trial. The Supreme Court has long recognized the public’s “definite and concrete interest in seeing that justice is swiftly and fairly administered.”
And so, just as Trump is entitled to a fair trial, the American public is entitled to a speedy trial. Perhaps in no other case in American history is the public’s interest in the swift and fair administration of criminal justice as great as it is here.
The public should have the benefit of the evidence presented during trial—and by Trump in his defense—and Trump should be judged by a jury of his peers. That may not be in the former president’s political interests, but it is in the nation’s best interest.
Only a jury can decide whether Trump is guilty of the charges against him. But it would deprive voters of critical information they need before they cast their ballots in November if they do not learn the full scope of the evidence and the jury’s verdict on it. Permitting delay would therefore not only undermine the rule of law, it would undermine the integrity of the 2024 election.
This is why we are joining a chorus of voices from both sides of the aisle calling on the courts to ensure that the former president is tried with the speed and dispatch that should attend every criminal prosecution.
We recognize that the Supreme Court is now facing the prospect of multiple extraordinary cases involving the former president, including one raising critical questions about whether he is constitutionally disqualified from holding office again. This moment in our history demands that the Court rise to the occasion. If necessary, it can and should decide both questions—whether Trump may appear on the ballot in the upcoming election as well whether he is subject to criminal prosecution—as quickly as possible.
The D.C. Circuit has been moving with deliberate speed in the criminal case. If it affirms the trial court’s decision denying immunity after today’s argument, it should also return the case to the trial court with similar speed. No doubt Trump will then appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court takes the case, the public interest demands that the Court decline to stay the trial proceedings, or else expedite its consideration and decision of the case so that it can be resolved well before the Court’s term expires in June.
As alumni of the legislative branch, we understand that it is the courts’ constitutional role to decide what the law is and whether or not Trump’s argument that he is immune from prosecution is correct. We are not persuaded that the argument has any basis in law or history, but whatever the answer, we urge the Supreme Court to proceed with haste so that Trump can be tried if need be, or released from the burdens of a trial if not.
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Texas), 1983–1991
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Missouri), 1976–1993
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Virginia), 2015–2019
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Pennsylvania), 2005–2018
David F. Emery
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Maine), 1975–1983
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Maryland), 1991–2009
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Pennsylvania), 1993–2005
U.S. House of Representatives (R-South Carolina), 1993–1999; 2005–2011
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Florida), 2014–2017
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Illinois), 2011–2023
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Mississippi), 1989–1999
Thomas E. Petri
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Wisconsin), 1979–2015
Reid J. Ribble
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Wisconsin), 2011–2017
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Virginia), 2011–2017
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Rhode Island), 1981–1991
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Michigan), 2015–2019
U.S. House of Representatives (R-New York), 1989–2009
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Illinois), 2011–2013
U.S. House of Representatives (R-Tennessee), 1995–2011
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