The Supreme Court says it will hear the case over Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution, delaying his trial

(Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

The Supreme Court says it will hear the case over Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution, delaying his trial

Election 2024

David G Savage

February 28, 2024

The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it will hear arguments and make a decision on whether former President Trump is immune from prosecution for the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Even if the justices ultimately rule against Trump, their decision to intervene now will delay his trial by several months, casting doubt on whether the criminal case can go to a jury before the fall election campaign.

The justices said they will hear arguments on April 22.

They said they would decide the next question: whether and, if so, to what extent a former president enjoys it


Immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct that would constitute official acts while in office?

The judges said no more.

It remains unclear whether some justices believe Trump has a strong claim to immunity for his “official acts” as president, or whether they are simply following the Court’s normal rules for resolving an important constitutional issue.

Trump’s claim of absolute immunity for his actions as president has been denied by most legal experts.

During a hearing, Trump’s lawyer claimed


the former president could be shielded from prosecution even if he ordered a Navy Seal team to kill one of his political rivals.

Special Counsel Jack Smith said Trump is accused of crimes that “go to the core of our democracy.” A president’s alleged criminal scheme to overturn an election and thwart the peaceful transfer of power to his successor should be the last place to recognize a new form of abuse of power. absolute immunity from federal criminal law.”

Trump was indicted by a grand jury in Washington on four felonies stemming from his efforts, some in public and some behind closed doors, to prevent President Biden from being declared the winner of the 2020 election.

In an effort to block a lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers argued that a former president is shielded from criminal charges because of his “official actions” while in office.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan disagreed, saying the Constitution does not provide absolute immunity to former presidents. The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC upheld her verdict in a 3-0 ruling.

On February 12, Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency appeal, urging the justices to stay the case while their appeal could be heard. They said: “President Trump’s assertion that presidents have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for their official actions presents a novel, complex, and weighty question that warrants careful consideration on appeal…If a president’s prosecution is upheld, such prosecutions will repeat themselves and “become increasingly common, ushering in destructive cycles of recrimination.”

They noted that one of the


The court’s rules call for granting review in a case in which an appeals court has decided “an important issue of federal law that is not resolved by this law but should be resolved.” [Supreme] Court.”

In December, the special counsel had cited this line to urge the justices to hear Trump’s case immediately. It is of absolute public interest that [his] Claims of immunity will be resolved by the Supreme Court, Smith said at the time.

But the judges denied his request for a speedy ruling and sent the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals

t, who subsequently spoke out against Trump.

This month, the special counsel partially reversed course and said the justices should decline to rule on Trump’s appeal, paving the way for the

January 6

though will begin later this spring. Granting a review now “risks frustrating the public interest in a speedy and fair judgment,” he said.

As a stopgap measure, he said the judges should hear the case in March and rule on it on an accelerated schedule.

The special counsel made no mention of the election campaign or Trump’s status as the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination.

But if the trial is postponed until late summer, the special counsel could run afoul of Justice Department policy to avoid prosecutions that could affect the election.

Two years ago, Atty. General Merrick Garland issued a memo declaring that “partisan politics should have no role in the decisions of…Prosecutors regarding any investigation or criminal prosecution….Prosecutors should never choose the timing of public statements…. or any other action in any case or matter for the purpose of influencing an election. Such purpose, or the appearance of such purpose, is inconsistent with the [Justice] The mission of the department.”

Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith criticized the special counsel’s “rush to court” in the Lawfare blog, saying:


This could conflict with the Justice Department’s policy of avoiding election interference.

“Polls show that Trump will be harmed, and Joe Biden will benefit, if Biden’s Justice Department convicts Trump of a crime before the election,” he said.

Lawyers for Alabama and 21 other Republican-led states urged the court to move slowly in hearing Trump’s appeals. They said their “states represent millions of Americans, many of whom are concerned that the timing of this prosecution was intended to silence or imprison President Biden’s political rival.”

They said the court “should not give the prosecution the green light to move at breakneck speed and bring the apparent front-runner for the presidency to justice in the run-up to the elections.”

But a group of former Republican officials, including ex-Sen. John Danforth of Missouri said maintaining immunity for Trump could raise the prospect of a future military coup.

“The last thing that would serve the nation or the presidency would be to encourage presidents who lose their re-election to engage in federal criminal legal violations… -the court brief. “If that qualifies for absolute immunity, the precedent would encourage a future president to violate federal criminal laws by using military and armed federal agents in efforts to change the results of a presidential election.”


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