Special counsel asks Supreme Court to rule on Trump’s immunity in Jan. 6 case

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(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has asked the Supreme Court to step in and decide the issue of presidential immunity regarding former President Donald Trump’s federal election interference charges.

Smith is asking the court to immediately resolve the issue, to prevent any delay of the March 4 trial date.

“Respondent’s appeal of the ruling rejecting his immunity and related claims, however, suspends the trial of the charges against him, scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024,” the special counsel wrote in a filing Monday. “It is of imperative public importance that respondent’s claims of immunity be resolved by this Court and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected.”

In October, Trump’s legal team filed its first motion to dismiss the case, citing what Trump’s lawyers claim is his “absolute immunity” from prosecution for actions taken while serving in the nation’s highest office.

The judge overseeing the case, D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, rejected the motion.

Trump has appealed to the circuit court and asked for all proceedings to be stayed in the matter, pending appeal. Over the weekend, Smith’s team said the district court should deny the request to halt the proceedings.

The case Smith cites in asking the Supreme Court to step in by using “certiorari before judgment” — essentially a line-skip before an appeals court has a chance to weigh in — is the United States v. Nixon, when President Richard Nixon refused to hand over secret White House tape recordings to a special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal.

Historically, the rare procedure is only granted in cases that are of “imperative” importance to the public, as Smith himself acknowledges.

“The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,” Smith’s filing says. “This is an extraordinary case.”

The move could represent an enormous risk for Smith, whose entire case against Trump could hinge on a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that could — for the first time in American history — determine whether a former U.S. president can be prosecuted for actions taken while in office.

“It requires no extended discussion to confirm that this case — involving charges that respondent sought to thwart the peaceful transfer of power through violations of federal criminal law — is at the apex of public importance,” Smith writes.

“The charges implicate a central tenet of our democracy,” Smith says in the filing. “And the charges allege that respondent conspired to transgress the law in manifold ways: by intentionally using fraudulent means to obstruct the presidential electoral process; by obstructing constitutionally prescribed processes in Congress for counting electoral votes; and by seeking to deprive millions of voters of their electoral choice for President.”

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a “criminal scheme” to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called “fake electors,” using the Justice Department to conduct “sham election crime investigations,” trying to enlist the vice president to “alter the election results,” and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged — all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

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