WASHINGTON - Donald Trump on Feb 12 turned to the US Supreme Court as he presses his claim - rejected by lower courts - that he is immune from being prosecuted for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss because he was serving as president when he took those actions.
Trump asked the justices to put on hold a ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejecting his immunity claim. A March 4 trial date for Trump in federal court in Washington on four criminal counts pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith was postponed, with no new date yet set.
Trump’s lawyers asked the justices to halt the trial proceedings pending their bid for the full slate of judges on the D.C. Circuit to reconsider the case, and, if necessary, an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov 5 US election. Mr Biden defeated Trump in 2020.
Slowing down the case could play to Trump’s advantage, as if he wins the November election and returns to the White House, he could use his presidential powers to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.
Three of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Trump, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the top US judicial body. The charges brought by Smith in August 2023 came in one of four criminal cases now pending against Trump, including another one in a Georgia state court also involving his efforts to undo his 2020 loss.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over the case brought by Mr Smith, in December rejected Trump’s immunity claim, ruling that former presidents “enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability”.
“Whatever immunities a sitting president may enjoy, the United States has only one chief executive at a time,” Judge Chutkan wrote, “and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”
After Trump appealed, the D.C. Circuit’s three-j...