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Trump asks Supreme Court to block immunity ruling and halt January 6 trial

Trump asks Supreme Court to block immunity ruling and halt January 6 trial


Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a lower court ruling that he could be criminally prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, insisting that presidents are immune of any prosecution and that a trial would radically disrupt his re-election bid.

If a president can be criminally charged for actions taken while in office, Trump's lawyers warn, such prosecutions will recur and become increasingly common, setting the stage for destructive cycles of recrimination. They added: Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it will cease to exist.

It was the second time in less than a week that the leading Republican presidential candidate turned to the nation's highest court to weigh in on an unprecedented legal issue that could shape his political future, asking in this case explicitly that the Supreme Court continue its criminal trial. hold to allow his political campaign to move forward unhindered. During oral arguments in a separate case Thursday, the justices appeared inclined to overturn a ruling by Colorado's highest court that Trump should be barred from the ballot because of his conduct surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol .

Monday's filing asks the justices to temporarily stay pending a formal appeal to the Supreme Court of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit's sweeping rejection of Trump's claim that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in office.

The same day, Trump attended a court hearing in Florida in a separate criminal case, in which he faces federal charges for mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to recover them. In Georgia, another hearing focused on allegations of misconduct against a state prosecutor who indicted Trump in connection with alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election there.

In total, Trump faces 91 counts across four different indictments. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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Forcing Trump into a months-long criminal trial, his lawyers said in their Supreme Court filing Monday, effectively sidelines him from the campaign, infringes on the rights of American voters, whether they support him or no, and threatens to tarnish the federal courts. with an appearance of partisanship.

The request gives judges a potentially key role in determining if and when Trump, who is closing in on the Republican nomination, faces a federal criminal trial in Washington. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, suspended pretrial proceedings while the appeal was pending and postponed the scheduled March 4 trial date until the appeal is resolved .

Chief Judge John G. Roberts Jr., in his role overseeing cases coming from the Washington, D.C., circuit, will likely seek a quick response from federal prosecutors before the justices rule on Trump's request.

The D.C. Circuit's 57-page opinion issued last week was a forceful and unanimous rebuke from an appeals court panel composed of two judges appointed by President Biden, a Democrat, and a judge appointed by Republican George HW Bush. We cannot accept former President Trump's assertion that a president has unlimited power to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check of executive power, namely the recognition and implementation of results elections, the judges wrote.

They said trial preparations could resume in the case in Washington unless Trump asks the Supreme Court to stay proceedings by Feb. 12, leaving the former president with little choice but to address the judges directly instead of requesting a review from the full court of appeal.

As they decide whether to grant Trump's request to stay the proceedings, the justices should also consider whether to schedule the immunity question for debate before the end of the Supreme Court's term, ending June or early July. The justices could deny Trump's request and allow the D.C. Circuits' ruling that Trump can be prosecuted to stand, clearing the way for the trial to resume immediately.

The votes of five of the nine judges are needed to keep the D.C. Circuit's decision in abeyance and trial proceedings suspended. It takes four judges to accept a case for review.

In his filing, Trump said the Supreme Court should not rush a review of his case and should instead allow him to first request a rehearing by a full complement of D.C. Circuit judges.

Conducting a months-long criminal trial against President Trump at the height of the election season will radically disrupt President Trump's ability to campaign against President Biden, which appears to be the purpose of the special counsels' persistent dispatch requests, according to the case from his legal team, led by attorney D. John Sauer.

Trump's lawyers also objected to the appeals courts' order that he bring the case to the Supreme Court within just four business days or risk a retrial. They called the delay an unprecedented and unacceptable departure from regular appeals procedures.

A spokesman for special prosecutor Jack Smith, who previously asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case because of a matter of public importance, declined to comment.

Some legal experts say there is good reason to believe at least four justices will vote in favor of Trump's immunity appeal; he is the first former president to be charged with a crime, and judges may want to have the final say on such an important question as whether he is immune from prosecution.

If the high court takes the case and does not expedite review, it would further delay Trump's trial in Washington, a key part of his legal strategy.

Everyone knows that's Trump's goal, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, during a panel discussion last week focused on the former president's legal problems. If he manages to drag this matter out until after the election, and if he wins, he will quickly put an end to this affair.

Although the immunity case and questions over Trump's ballot eligibility are separate, legal observers have suggested the justices may seek a compromise when it comes to resolving questions involving the former president . After oral argument in the Colorado case, Richard Hasen, a UCLA law professor, said a grand agreement appeared to be emerging.

Hasen called Trump's immunity claims exceptionally weak and suggested the court could both reinstate Trump and force him to stand trial.

Together, these decisions allow voters to decide whether Trump is truly disqualified from the presidency, Hasen wrote for Slate, adding that it would be a good Kumbaya moment for the court.

The D.C. Circuit upheld Chutkan's Dec. 1 ruling rejecting Trump's new assertion that former presidents are immune from prosecution, at least for actions related to their official duties, unless first impeached and convicted by Congress.

For purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump became a Trump citizen, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant, the panel wrote. But any executive immunity that might have protected him while he was president no longer protects him from these prosecutions.

The judges noted that other former presidents considered themselves vulnerable to prosecution. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon for all offenses he committed or might have committed while in office.

During Trump's second impeachment proceedings in the House after the Jan. 6 attack, his lawyers acknowledged that he could face criminal charges even if he were acquitted by the Senate.

Perry Stein contributed to this report.




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