US Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team requested on Monday that the Supreme Court expedite a review of former President Donald Trump’s assertions of immunity in relation to federal charges alleging that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election.
Justice Department policy prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president and Smith’s request is the first in which the Supreme Court would rule on whether immunity is granted to former presidents. Trump’s lawyers say he was acting in an official capacity during the time in question. Prosecutors say this was absolutely not the case.
The charges against Donald Trump
Trump faces myriad legal threats at the local, state and federal level for numerous crimes including the unlawful retention of classified documents, election interference and attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
He appealed a December 1 decision by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who ruled Trump had no legal basis for immunity as the result of the office he held at the time of the alleged crimes.
In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote the office of the presidency, “does not confer a lifelong ‘get out of jail free’ pass,” adding, “Former presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability.”
Smith justified the urgency of his move — skipping over lower appeals courts to have the Supreme Court definitively decide whether Trump can be put on trial for the charges against him — by saying the issue, “presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy.”
The appeal launched by Trump’s legal team has suspended Smith’s trial against him indefinitely. Therefore, the special counsel has asked that the high court expedite its review so that the trial can begin on March 4, 2024, as originally scheduled.
The court will not consider the issue before January 5, 2024, when justices are scheduled to hold their next private conference.
The normal process of a Supreme Court hearing would take several months to conclude, hence Smith’s urgent request.