Trump asks the US Supreme Court to intervene in his immunity request

Written by John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a ruling rejecting his claim that he is immune from prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, saying that without that shield “the presidency we know will cease to exist.”

Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency in the US elections scheduled for November 5, asked the judges to halt the ruling issued on February 6 by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which rejects his request for immunity from prosecution. Judicial. .

Trump’s lawyers warned in a filing to the Supreme Court that “a months-long criminal prosecution of President Trump at the height of the election season would radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign” against President Joe Biden before the election.

They asked the justices to halt the trial proceedings while they wait for a full slate of judges on the D.C. Circuit to reconsider the case and, if necessary, file an appeal to the Supreme Court. Trump’s March 4 trial in Washington federal court on four criminal charges being pursued by special counsel Jack Smith has already been postponed, with no new date set.

Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the most likely candidate for the Republican Party nomination to compete with Democratic Biden, who defeated him in 2020.

Slowing the issue down could benefit Trump. If he wins the November election and returns to the White House, he could use his presidential powers to impose an end to prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.

Trump’s lawyers painted a bleak picture – which the DC Circuit rejected – of what would happen to future presidents if he allowed his criminal trial to continue, warning of partisan prosecutions, blackmail, and more.

“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” his lawyers wrote.

“Any decision the president makes on a politically controversial issue will face the threat of impeachment by the opposing party after a change of administrations. All presidential decisions will be subject to unjustified and illegitimate pressure from opposition political forces, under the threat of impeachment after the election.” They wrote that the president had left office.

They added, “The threat of prosecution will become a political cudgel used to influence the most sensitive and important presidential decisions with the threat of personal weakness after leaving office.”

“The risk that former presidents will be subjected to unjustified harassment through meritless federal criminal prosecutions appears slight,” the D.C. Circuit decision stated.

Trump’s lawyers also repeated his long-standing claim that the trial was politically motivated.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. The charges brought by Smith in August 2023 came in one of four criminal cases now pending against Trump, including another in Georgia state court also related to his efforts to undo his 2020 loss.

“There are no special conditions”

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over Smith’s case, in December rejected Trump’s immunity request, ruling that former presidents “do not have special requirements regarding their federal criminal liability.”

After Trump appealed, the three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit also rejected Trump’s immunity claim.

“We cannot accept that the office of the presidency will place its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” the committee wrote in its decision.

During arguments in January before the D.C. Circuit, one of Trump’s lawyers told the justices that even if the president sold a pardon or military secrets or ordered a Navy commando unit to assassinate a political rival, he could not be criminally charged unless he was first impeached and convicted. In Congress.

Prosecutors said Trump was acting as a candidate, not as president, when he pressured officials to overturn the election results and encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to pressure Congress not to certify Biden’s victory.

The indictment accused Trump of conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing Congress’ certification of Biden’s electoral victory and conspiring to do so, and conspiring against Americans’ right to vote.

Last October, Trump sought to have the charges dropped based on his claim of immunity from criminal prosecution related to actions the president took while in office.

He has regularly made sweeping claims of immunity. The Supreme Court in 2020 rejected Trump’s argument that he was immune from a subpoena issued during the government’s criminal investigation while he was president.

The Supreme Court in December denied Smith’s request to rule on the immunity claim even before the D.C. Circuit ruled — an attempt by the attorney general to speed up the process of resolving the matter. Instead, the justices chose to let the lower appellate court rule first, as is customary.

(Reporting by John Kruzel, Editing by Will Dunham)

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