February 26, 2024

Trump asks Supreme Court to stay immunity ruling in 2020 election case

Washington – Former President Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to stay a lower court’s decision that rejected his broad claims of immunity from criminal prosecution in the federal case involving the 2020 election.

In a 39-page filing, Trump’s lawyers on Monday asked the judges to impose a “suspension” of the law. ruling issued by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The panel said it would delay implementation of its ruling until Feb. 12 to give Trump time to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Five judges are needed to approve Trump’s request for emergency aid. Trump’s lawyers said the delay is necessary to give them time to seek further review of the ruling, either before the full DC Circuit or before the Supreme Court itself. The filing shows that they will eventually ask the Supreme Court to settle the case once and for all.

Trump’s filing said the DC Circuit panel’s decision represented “a stunning violation of precedent and historical norms.”

“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” attorneys D. John Sauer and John Lauro wrote.

The decision of the court of appeal

The three appeals court judges – Karen LeCraft Henderson, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan – ruled last week that Trump was not immune from prosecution in special prosecutor Jack Smith’s criminal case against him. The justices rejected the former president’s argument that he should be protected from the charges because the conduct alleged in the federal indictment occurred while he was in office.

“For purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the panel wrote in its opinion. “But any executive branch immunity that may have protected him while he was president no longer protects him from this prosecution.”

A federal grand jury last year charged Trump with four counts stemming from an alleged attempt to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied wrongdoing.

The justices wrote that they “cannot accept former President Trump’s assertion that a president has unlimited powers to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results.”

Adopting Trump’s argument, they continued, would mean that “the executive branch has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and have their votes counted.”

The appeals court panel said its ruling would take effect on February 12 unless Trump asked the Supreme Court for emergency relief, or if the full appeals court agreed to hear the case after the deadline.

Trump’s application

In their request for a stay, the former president’s legal team argued that the Supreme Court has “compelling” reasons to stay the appeals court ruling pending further litigation. They said the issue of presidential immunity from federal charges is a new issue for the court to decide and that the criminal case against Trump would continue if the judges fail to act, linking the legal battle to his campaign to overturn the Take back the White House.

“The Special Counsel is urgently seeking to force President Trump into a months-long criminal trial at the height of the campaign season, effectively sidelining him and preventing him from campaigning against the current President to whom the Special Counsel ultimately reports, President Biden,” according to the file. said. “This would inflict serious First Amendment harm on President Trump and all American voters, whether they support him or not, and threatens to taint the federal courts with the appearance of bias.”

They ask the Supreme Court to consider whether the doctrine of presidential immunity extends to the criminal prosecution of a president for acts committed while in office, and whether the impeachment of a president by the House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate prevent prosecution for similar conduct.

The Supreme Court previously ruled in a 1982 decision involving Richard Nixon that presidents are immune from civil lawsuits arising from actions within their official duties.

Trump’s legal team argued that if a president is indicted, prosecutions “will become increasingly common, ushering in a destructive cycle of impeachment.”

“The threat of future criminal prosecution from a politically opposing administration will overshadow the official actions of any future president — especially the most politically controversial decisions,” Lauro and Sauer wrote. “The President’s political opponents will seek to influence and control his or her decisions through effective extortion or blackmail, with the threat, express or implied, of indictment by a future hostile administration for acts that do not warrant such prosecution. ”

The lawyers took on the appeals court’s decision directly, claiming it misinterpreted past legal precedent and “commits a series of fundamental errors,” arguing that the unanimous opinion ignored constitutional concerns about the separation of powers . They argued that issues of this magnitude take time to decide and that Trump’s criminal case should not proceed until these cases are resolved.

What comes next

In Monday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers indicated their next steps would be determined by how the justices rule on their request for a stay. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority and includes three justices appointed by Trump himself.

In added relief, Trump is asking the court to stay the panel’s decision pending the resolution of not only the Supreme Court proceedings, but also his “scheduled” request to the full DC Circuit to overturn the ruling. judges to reconsider. His lawyers said Trump plans to seek review from the full appeals court “in due course.”

If the D.C. Circuit declines to review the panel’s decision or rules against Trump, the former president could ask the Supreme Court to intervene. The Supreme Court could also grant a stay and decide to address the issue immediately.

The former president first raised his claim of presidential immunity in October, when he asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the criminal case in D.C., to dismiss the charges. Chutkan denied the request and Trump later appealed the ruling to the DC Circuit.

The Chutkan District Court trial schedule has since been suspended. Earlier this month she… postponed indefinitely the trial date of March 4 until the immunity issue is resolved.

Smith, the special counsel, asked the Supreme Court last month to skip the appeals court and decide the immunity issue once and for all, but the high court declined to expedite the case and instead allowed the appeals process to proceed. The special counsel’s office declined to comment Monday on Trump’s filing.

The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether former presidents are entitled to criminal immunity for conduct that occurred while they were in the White House. Trump is the first former president in the country’s history to be indicted.

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