Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Mar-a-Lago on February 8, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Donald Trump's lawyers asked the Supreme Court on Monday to temporarily stay a ruling rejecting his claim that he was immune from criminal indictment for trying to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat.
“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a request to the Supreme Court to stay a lower court’s ruling.
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., unanimously rejected Trump's argument last Tuesday that he cannot be prosecuted for official acts he performed as president .
The move would end Trump's effort to dismiss special counsel Jack Smith's case and restart proceedings in federal district court in Washington.
But the panel delayed its 57-page ruling from taking effect until Monday, giving Trump's lawyers time to ask the Supreme Court to put the case on hold while they appeal to the highest court from the country.
In requesting the break Monday afternoon, defense lawyers argued that the High Court should “prevent, once again, an unprecedented and unacceptable departure from ordinary appellate procedures and allow the application for immunity of President Trump be determined in the ordinary course of justice.”
Trump's immunity claim “presents a novel, complex, and momentous issue that merits careful appellate consideration,” his lawyers wrote.
Allowing a former president to be criminally prosecuted for official acts would open the way to “destructive cycles of recrimination,” and the threat of future indictment “would hang like a stone on the neck of any future president,” they said. they supported.
They also argued that the appeals court's order would threaten “immediate irreparable harm to the First Amendment interests” of Trump and millions of voters because it would expedite a trial that would “inevitably disrupt President Trump's ability to to campaign against the president. [Joe] Biden.”
Trump has sought to delay his multiple criminal and civil cases as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. He is currently the Republican Party favorite, setting up a likely rematch with Biden.
Trump's request for a stay keeps the case on hold, at least until the Supreme Court issues a decision on whether to grant the request. An individual judge can make this decision.
The nine-member Supreme Court includes three justices appointed under Trump, but Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by former President George W. Bush, is responsible for handling cases originating in Washington.
Last week's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's earlier ruling rejecting Trump's request for “absolute” presidential immunity.
Protesters demonstrate in front of the United States Supreme Court on February 8, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Julia Nikhinson | Getty Images
“For purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump became a Trump citizen, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” reads the decision by appellate judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan.
“But any executive immunity that might have protected him while he was president no longer protects him from these prosecutions,” they ruled.
Trump's lawyers have argued that the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine prevents courts from reviewing a president's official actions. They also argued that the same doctrine requires immunity to avoid impeding the functions of the executive branch.
The court of appeal rejected these arguments.
“At bottom, former President Trump’s position would fail our system of separate powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches,” the justices ruled.
They also dismissed as “irrational” Trump's assertion that the Constitution only allows charges against a former president if he is first impeached and convicted by Congress.
Read more about CNBC's politics coverage
Trump was impeached in the House twice while in office, but the Senate voted to acquit him each time. A majority of senators voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds requirement.
Smith, in the Washington election case, is suing Trump on four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by attempting to overturn the 2020 results and conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying Trump's victory. Biden on January 6, 2021.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges and dozens of others in three other active criminal cases, which he says are part of a Biden administration plot to harm him politically.
CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.
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