Donald Trump says he will appeal judge's immunity ruling in federal election conspiracy case

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gave legal notice Thursday that he will appeal U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's ruling that he has no presidential immunity in his federal criminal conspiracy trial. File Pool Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gave legal notice Thursday that he will appeal U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's ruling that he has no presidential immunity in his federal criminal conspiracy trial. File Pool Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI
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Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Donald Trump gave legal notice Thursday that he will appeal U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's ruling that he has no presidential immunity in his federal criminal conspiracy trial charging that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

The appeal could potentially affect whether he goes to trial March 4 as currently scheduled and could possibly mean the trial could be pushed back to after the 2024 election.

Special Counsel Jack Smith alleges that conspiracy led to the Jan. 6 insurrection attack on the U.S. Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob that threatened to hang Vice President Mike Pence.

In denying Trump's motions for immunity, Chutkin wrote, "Defendant's four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens."

Trump's appeals to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court may delay the election conspiracy Jan. 6 case until after the 2024 election, depending on how quickly they hear the appeal.

Demonstrators stand outside the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in August after Judge Tanya Chutkan set former U.S. President Donald Trump's federal election interference trial date to March 4, 2024. Trump gave legal notice Thursday that he will appeal U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's ruling that he has no presidential immunity in his federal criminal conspiracy trial, and the appeals could potentially affect whether he goes to trial in March as scheduled or after the upcoming election. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

The Supreme Court could simply decline to take the case. Both appeals courts would have to act fast in order for Trump's trial to happen by March 4.

Trump's lawyers contend Chutkin was legally incorrect in her ruling because they contend he has presidential immunity and they claim that, since he was already impeached for Jan. 6, this case amounts to double jeopardy.

Special Council Jack Smith alleges that conspiracy led to the Jan. 6 insurrection attack on the U.S. Capitol by a violent pro- Donald Trump mob. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Special Council Jack Smith alleges that conspiracy led to the Jan. 6 insurrection attack on the U.S. Capitol by a violent pro- Donald Trump mob. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

But impeachment is a political, not a criminal proceeding. Double jeopardy protection is for being criminally tried twice for the same charge.

Chutkin wrote in denying Trump's appeals that neither double jeopardy nor the impeachment Judgement Clause bars a subsequent criminal prosecution after an impeachment.

Department of Homeland Security officers stand outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., before former president Donald Trump's arraignment on charges of election subversion in August. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Department of Homeland Security officers stand outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., before former president Donald Trump's arraignment on charges of election subversion in August. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Douglas N. Letter, former House general counsel from 2018-2023, said the D.C. appeals court can move very quickly and the Supreme Court may want to avoid getting involved.

"I could easily see the Supreme Court thinking, 'We don't want to get anywhere near this matter now; we're going to deny review at this point and see what happens at trial,' Letter said.

This case is just one of four separate criminal cases where Trump faces a total of 91 criminal charges, including conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, illegally possessing and refusing to return classified documents, and tampering to subvert Georgia's 2020 election results.