Tuesday, December 12, 2023

SCOTUS fast tracks Trump's immunity claim

Special Counsel Jack Smith asked SCOTUS to intervene

Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, asked the Supreme Court  to rule on Mr. Trump’s argument that he is immune from prosecution. The justices quickly agreed to fast-track the first phase of the case, reported The New York Times.

Mr. Smith’s request was unusual in two ways: He asked the justices to rule before an appeals court acted, and he urged them to move with exceptional speed.

“This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: 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,” Mr. Smith wrote.

On Monday evening, just hours after Mr. Smith filed papers in the Supreme Court, the justices granted his initial request: to put their consideration of whether to hear the case on a fast track. The court ordered Mr. Trump’s lawyers to file their response to the petition seeking review on an abbreviated schedule, by Dec. 20.

Mr. Smith’s filings represented a vigorous plea to keep the trial on track by cutting off an avenue by which Mr. Trump could cause delays.

A speedy decision by the justices is of the essence, Mr. Smith wrote, because Mr. Trump’s appeal of a trial judge’s ruling rejecting his claim of immunity suspends the criminal trial. The proceeding is scheduled to begin on March 4 in Federal District Court in Washington.

Any significant delays could plunge the trial into the heart of the 2024 campaign season or push it past the election, when Mr. Trump could order the charges be dropped if he wins the presidency.

“The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,” Mr. Smith wrote. “This is an extraordinary case.”

The trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, rejected Mr. Trump’s sweeping claims that he enjoyed “absolute immunity” from the election interference indictment because it was based on actions he took while in office.

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