US Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team on Monday requested that the Supreme Court fast-track a review of former President ‘s claims of immunity regarding federal charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the .
Justice Department policy prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president and Smith’s request is the first in which the Supreme Court would rule on . Trump’s lawyers say he was acting in an official capacity during the time in question. Prosecutors say this was absolutely not the case.
The charges against Donald Trump
Trump faces myriad legal threats at the local, state and federal level for numerous crimes including the unlawful retention of classified documents, election interference and attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
He appealed a December 1 decision by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who ruled Trump had no legal basis for immunity as the result of the office he held at the time of the alleged crimes.
In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote the office of the presidency, “does not confer a lifelong ‘get out of jail free’ pass,” adding, “Former presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability.”
Why Special Counsel Jack Smith wants a speedy ruling on Trump’s immunity claims
Smith justified the urgency of his move — skipping over lower appeals courts to have the definitively decide whether Trump can be put on trial for the charges against him — by saying the issue, “presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy.”
The appeal launched by Trump’s legal team has suspended Smith’s trial against him indefinitely. Therefore, the special counsel has asked that the high court expedite its review so that the trial can begin on March 4, 2024, as originally scheduled.
The court will not consider the issue before January 5, 2024, when justices are scheduled to hold their next private conference.
The normal process of a Supreme Court hearing would take several months to conclude, hence Smith’s urgent request.
“It is of imperative public importance that [Trump’s] claims of immunity be resolved by this court and that [Trump’s] trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected,” said Smith on Monday.
The special counsel asked the court to weigh in on, “whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”
Smith called Trump’s claims of immunity “profoundly mistaken,” while adding that the Supreme Court alone, “can definitively resolve them.”
Trump and the race for the Republican Party nomination
Trump is currently well ahead of a narrowing field of challengers fighting to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee — leading his closest opponents and by over 50 points — .
His poll numbers also appear to be strong against , the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Trump’s court cases are set to directly collide with the Republican primary schedule and legal experts say that by delaying his trials over immunity claims, the former president could be seeking an opportunity to campaign against Biden rather than appearing in court.
Though unusual, the request is not unprecedented. Over the past several decades the court has been forced to greatly speed up its standard pace — ordering then President Richard Nixon to turn over secret Oval Office recordings within two months as part of the Watergate scandal, and ruling within days that George W. Bush had defeated Al Gore for the office of the presidency in 2000.
js/rt (AP, Reuters)
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