Trump asks Supreme Court to not hear presidential immunity appeal yet

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, on Dec. 19, 2023.

Scott Morgan | Reuters

Lawyers for Donald Trump on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court not to consider, yet, the question of whether he has presidential immunity from prosecution for federal crimes related to trying to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Trump’s attorneys in a new filing objected to a request by Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith that the Supreme Court fast track that question, accusing the prosecutor of doing so to harm Trump politically and to help President Joe Biden’s reelection chances.

The former president instead wants the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to hear his appeal of a trial court judge’s ruling that he does not have immunity.

“The Special Counsel urges this Court to bypass those ordinary procedures, including the longstanding preference for prior consideration by at least one court of appeals, and rush to decide the issues with┬áreckless abandon,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their filing Wednesday.

They argued that the Supreme Court’s “ordinary review procedures will allow the D.C. Circuit to address this appeal in the first instance, thus granting this Court the benefit of an appellate court’s prior consideration of these historic topics and performing the traditional winnowing function that this Court has long preferred.”

They noted that the appeals court has already granted Smith a “highly expedited review of President Trump’s appeal over President Trump’s opposition.”

The final legal briefs in that appeal are due to be filed by Jan. 2, with oral arguments before a three-judge circuit court panel scheduled for Jan. 9.

D.C. federal district court Judge Tanya Chutkan in early December ruled that Trump does not have absolute immunity from prosecution even though he was president at the time of the alleged crimes.

Trump quickly appealed that ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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But Smith soon after both asked the D.C. Circuit to expedite the appeal, and that the Supreme Court grab the appeal out of that court.

Smith’s move is a gambit to resolve the dispute quickly enough to potentially allow Trump’s criminal trial to begin as scheduled in March.

Trump’s desire to slow walk the appeal, in turn, is seen as an attempt to delay that trial, potentially until after the 2024 presidential election. As of now, Chutkan cannot take any action in the case while her ruling is being appealed.

In their filing Wednesday at the Supreme Court, Trump’s lawyers wrote that Smith “identifies no compelling
reason for the extraordinary haste he proposes.”

“Instead, he vaguely asserts that the ‘public interest’ favors resolution on a dramatically accelerated timetable, to ensure that President Trump may be brought to trial in the next few months,” the attorneys wrote.

“In doing so, he confuses the ‘public interest’ with the manifest partisan interest in ensuring that President Trump will be subjected to a months-long criminal trial at the height of a presidential campaign where he is the leading candidate and the only serious opponent of the current Administration,” the filing said.

“The combination of an almost three-year wait to bring this case and the Special Counsel’s current demand for extraordinary expedition, supported by the vaguest of justifications, creates a compelling inference of partisan motivation.”

Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

If Trump loses his appeal at the D.C. Circuit Court, he is certain to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Chutkan’s ruling.

Three of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Trump.

He has pleaded not guilty in the case, and in three other criminal cases in which he was charged earlier this year.

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