Supreme Court To Weigh Trump's Presidential Immunity: Blockbuster Case With Election-Year Ramifications

By Alan Hume | Thursday, 29 February 2024 11:59 PM
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The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to examine the question of whether former President Donald Trump possesses immunity from prosecution in the Special Counsel's federal election interference case.

This election-year dispute promises to have far-reaching legal and political consequences for the country.

The Supreme Court has expedited the appeal, scheduling oral arguments for late April, with a verdict on the merits anticipated by the end of June. Trump's criminal trial has been postponed until the issue is resolved.

The week of April 22 will mark the commencement of the arguments. This will be the second occasion this term that the Supreme Court will hear a case involving the presumed Republican presidential nominee. Earlier this month, separate arguments were presented over whether Trump could be removed from the Colorado primary ballot due to allegations of "insurrection" during the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

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The Supreme Court is currently deliberating an emergency appeal lodged by Trump to prolong the delay in the trial arising from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s 2020 election interference case. Trump argues that his presidential immunity should shield him from prosecution.

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This request was submitted just days after a D.C. appeals court ruled that the former president and potential 2024 GOP candidate is not immune from prosecution in Smith's case.

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The request was for temporary relief, to stay or block the appeals court mandate from taking effect, which would provide the Trump legal team with additional time to file an appeal to the Supreme Court on the merits of whether a former president is entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution for actions taken while in office.

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Smith, a few days later, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss Trump's bid to delay his trial.

Although the special counsel's filing does not explicitly reference the upcoming November election or Trump's status as the Republican primary front-runner, prosecutors described the case as having "unique national importance" and stated that "delay in the resolution of these charges threatens to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict."

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The trial arising from Smith's case against Trump has been postponed until the immunity question is resolved.

The Trump request stated, "If the prosecution of a President is upheld, such prosecutions will recur and become increasingly common, ushering in destructive cycles of recrimination." It added, "Criminal prosecution, with its greater stigma and more severe penalties, imposes a far greater ‘personal vulnerability’ on the President than any civil penalty."

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The request further stated, "The threat of future criminal prosecution by a politically opposed Administration will overshadow every future President’s official acts — especially the most politically controversial decisions."

The request argues that the president's "political opponents will seek to influence and control his or her decisions via effective extortion or blackmail with the threat, explicit or implicit, of indictment by a future, hostile Administration, for acts that do not warrant any such prosecution."

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Trump's lawyers added, "Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist."

The decision follows Washington, D.C., federal Judge Tanya Chutkan's official delay of the trial, which was set to begin on Monday — a day before the critical Super Tuesday primary contests.

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Chutkan stated in December that she does not have jurisdiction over the matter while it is pending before the Supreme Court, and she put a pause on the case against the Republican 2024 front-runner until the high court determines its involvement.

Smith charged the former president with conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights. These charges stemmed from Smith’s investigation into whether Trump was involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and any alleged interference in the 2020 election result.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges in August.

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