In a pivotal move, former President Donald Trump has submitted an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court. The application asks the Court to stay the decision of an appeals court last week to let stand a lower court ruling that Trump was not absolutely immune from prosecution in a high-profile case of election interference brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Trump, who in August pleaded not guilty to charges of having orchestrated a "criminal scheme" to fake the 2020 election results, is now moving to dismiss the case. He is contending that he is immune from prosecution in respect of an act done in the course of carrying out the duties of his office as President, the "absolute immunity".
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals last week rebuffed arguments by Trump attorneys that the president is immune from prosecution in the legal skirmish. Such a ruling clears the way for a possible further escalation of the case to the Supreme Court.
Trump's Team: Delay Trial
Trump's legal team, in their filing with the Supreme Court on Monday, argued that the stakes were simply too high and the issues too complex to cut off the appellate process. They said looking at the presidential election, the appellate process should be allowed to play out, which could prevent a trial from happening at all.
The justices on the Supreme Court are likely to request a response from Smith, who is overseeing the Trump investigations for the federal prosecutor, before acting on the stay application in the coming days. Attorneys for Trump signaled their intent to take the case before the full U.S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit en banc and from there to the Supreme Court. They say that this leaves more room for the full consideration in the lower court before the trial in this appeal can take place on the novel and serious matters.
The urgency to resolve the matter quickly, which Smith was underlining earlier—when he was saying that it was due to "imperative public importance"—would be countered by the Trump lawyers arguing that delays because of immunity questions are usual and routine.
They added that bringing Trump to trial on the eve of the 2024 election would inflict on him "irreparable injury," affecting his campaign functions. In a stark rebuttal to Trump's immunity claims, the ruling categorically rejected such protection, saying it would "undermine the fundamental structure of separated powers by placing a President beyond the accountability of all three branches of Government.
Trump's trial had been scheduled to start on March 4, but U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had postponed it. The delay was to give time for his appeal on presidential immunity to be resolved.