Supreme Court Urged to Reject Trump Immunity, Allow DC Trial

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(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s criminal trial for election interference should go forward without delay, Special Counsel Jack Smith told the US Supreme Court, urging rejection of the ex-president’s bid to keep the prosecution on hold potentially until next year.

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Smith’s filing comes two days after Trump asked the high court to keep the trial paused while he presses an appeal that seeks immunity from criminal charges stemming from his effort to overturn his 2020 election loss.

“The nation has a compelling interest in seeing the charges brought to trial,” Smith told the justices, without directly mentioning Trump’s campaign to reclaim the presidency.

Smith said that if the high court decides to keep the trial on hold, the justices should take up the case and hear arguments on a fast-track basis in March.

Trump is challenging a federal appeals court decision that let him be prosecuted in US district court in Washington for allegedly trying to remain in power illegally. Unless the Supreme Court halts the ruling, it would let US District Judge Tanya Chutkan set a new trial date.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, would be the first major party candidate to stand criminal trial amid a presidential campaign. He is facing four criminal cases, including a similar election prosecution under state law in Georgia and a case over hush money payments to a porn star that could go to trial as soon as March 25 in Manhattan.

Trump has repeatedly sought to extend deadlines and said the trial in Washington should wait until after the November election. A Trump victory at the polls would let him order the Justice Department to drop the case.

The 3-0 appeals court ruling said Trump seeks “unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results.”

In the Monday filing, Trump told the Supreme Court that a delay was warranted given the demands of the presidential campaign.

“Conducting a months-long criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden — which appears to be the whole point of the special counsel’s persistent demands for expedition,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

Trump contends he was acting within his official capacity as president during the lead-up to the Capitol assault. He points to a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that said, with regard to civil suits, presidents have complete immunity for actions taken within the “outer perimeter” of their official duties.

Trump asked the justices to give him the option of seeking review from a larger panel of judges on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, rather than going directly to the high court with his appeal.

Smith previously asked the Supreme Court to take up the criminal immunity issue on an expedited basis. The justices rejected that request in December, instead letting the appeals court address Trump’s arguments first.

The special counsel argued at the time it was “of imperative public importance” that the Supreme Court be the one to resolve Trump’s immunity claims.

“The charged crimes strike at the heart of our democracy,” Smith said in the Wednesday filing. “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 novel form of absolute immunity from federal criminal law.”

The case is Trump v. US, 23A745.

--With assistance from Chris Strohm.

(Updates with comment from filing in third paragraph.)

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