Here’s what you need to know…
On Monday, Special Counsel Jack Smith urged the Supreme Court to promptly consider and rule on the matter of whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted for allegedly scheming to overturn the 2020 election results. While a federal judge permitted the case to proceed, Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, indicated his intention to appeal the decision to the federal appeals court in Washington.
Smith is seeking to bypass the appeals court, emphasizing the urgency to maintain the trial’s current schedule on March 4 and avoid delays that could extend the case beyond the upcoming presidential election. In the filed request, prosecutors underscored the fundamental question about whether a former President is immune from federal prosecution for actions committed while in office or constitutionally protected from prosecution if impeached but not convicted before criminal proceedings.
The prosecutors’ request for the Supreme Court to expedite the matter aligns with their goal to resolve the immunity question and proceed with the trial swiftly. The earliest the court could consider the appeal is January 5, 2024, during the next scheduled private conference of the justices.
The urgency is emphasized by prosecutors who argue that it is crucial for the Court to address the immunity claims promptly, stating, “It is of imperative public importance that respondent’s claims of immunity be resolved by this Court and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected.”
The legal issue revolves around a December 1 ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, rejecting Trump’s immunity claims and stating that the presidency does not grant lifelong immunity from federal prosecution. Chutkan’s order affirmed that former Presidents are subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for criminal acts committed while in office.
If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it would mark the first time the justices rule on whether ex-presidents enjoy immunity from prosecution. Trump’s lawyers argue that he cannot be charged for actions within his official duties as president, a claim prosecutors vehemently dispute.
Smith’s team emphasizes the extraordinary nature of their request and urges the Court to grant certiorari, setting a briefing schedule for a prompt resolution. Prosecutors also want the Court to address Trump’s claim that he cannot be prosecuted in court for conduct for which he was already impeached and acquitted by Congress, a claim previously rejected by Judge Chutkan.
Trump faces charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results before the Capitol riot by his supporters. The Supreme Court typically takes several months to reach a decision, but Smith is requesting an expedited process, citing precedent instances where the Court acted swiftly in matters of national importance.