Trump's Candidacy Amid Legal Issues to Be Focus of Forum

News subtitle

 Neal Katyal ’91 and Jake Tapper ’91 to discuss “An Election on Trial.”

Jake Tapper and Neal Katyal
Fellow trustees Jake Tapper ’91 and Neal Katyal ’91 have been friends since their first year at Dartmouth. (Photos courtesy of CNN, Matt Sayles)

Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal ’91 and CNN News anchor Jake Tapper ’91 will speak at Dartmouth later this month on how former President Donald Trump’s legal challenges make the 2024 presidential election unique in American history.

An Election on Trial: A Conversation with Jake Tapper ’91 and Neal Katyal ’91, co-sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Dartmouth Minority Pre-Law Association, is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 29, and will also be livestreamed.

Herschel Nachlis, associate director and senior policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center, who will moderate part of the discussion, says having the two Dartmouth trustees in conversation about this unprecedented moment in American politics is an exceptional opportunity for students and the public.

“I’m currently teaching about 100 first-year Dartmouth public policy students, and the opportunity for them to see two distinguished alumni, from the same class no less, talk through these issues in Collis on a Thursday night is literally Dartmouth at its best,” says Nachlis. “I’m sure they’ll share some Dartmouth stories too, as they both always do. They always give our students really great advice.”

Katyal, the Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University, previously served as acting solicitor general of the United States during the Obama administration. He has argued 50 cases before the Supreme Court, including successfully striking down the Guantanamo military tribunals and defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. 

“I’m thrilled to be presenting at Dartmouth with Jake. Jake and I have been friends since our freshman year fall, and I have undying respect for him as a journalist, public intellectual, author, father, and friend,” Katyal says.

Tapper has been a widely respected reporter in the nation’s capital for more than 20 years. His reporting on the 2016 election has been recognized with a number of awards, including a 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. He currently anchors a two-hour weekday program, The Lead With Jake Tapper, as well as CNN’s Sunday morning show, State of the Union, and in April 2021, he became the lead anchor for CNN for Washington, D.C., events.

Katyal and Tapper will dig into the complex issues raised by a former president—and current presidential candidate—who faces numerous civil and criminal lawsuits at multiple levels of government across multiple jurisdictions, Nachlis says.

“And of course, we like to believe, and it may often be true, that the law operates independently of politics, but surely the unique and bizarre political circumstances within which these cases are occurring weigh on the advocates and the judges involved in disposing of these cases,” he says. 

“I think Neal can speak uniquely to the legal factors at play at this historic nexus. And Jake can speak uniquely to the political factors.”

A federal appeals panel on Tuesday rejected Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, though Trump is expected to appeal the ruling. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments in a Colorado case that barred Trump from the Republican primary ballot there for engaging in insurrection, a violation of Section 3 of the 14th amendment of the Constitution. In all, Trump faces 91 felony counts in four criminal cases in Washington, New York, Florida, and Georgia. He’s also charged in a civil suit in New York that could force him to close down his business operations in his home state, the Associated Press reports. 

The Dartmouth Minority Pre-Law Association, which partnered with the Rockefeller Center to host the event, provides information about law schools, the legal profession, legal careers, as well as access to alumni and other distinguished allies in the legal field to minority students interested in pursuing law careers. The Rockefeller Center is engaging with the Dartmouth Minority Pre-Law Association and the Dartmouth Lawyers Association and all interested students to increase opportunities for those investigating legal careers. 

The event will be held at Collis Common Ground starting at 8 p.m. on Feb. 29. Seating is limited and advanced registration is required. Contact for more information.