By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to stay a court ruling rejecting his claim that he was immune from prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat, arguing that without such a shield, “the presidency as we know it will cease to exist.
Trump, seeking to win back the presidency in the Nov. 5 U.S. election, asked the justices to stay a Feb. 6 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejecting his request immunity from prosecution. .
Trump’s lawyers, in a brief to the Supreme Court, warned that “conducting a months-long criminal trial against President Trump at the height of the election season would radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign” against the president. Joe Biden before the elections.
They asked the judges to halt the trial while waiting for the full D.C. Circuit judges to review the case and, if necessary, appeal to the Supreme Court. Trump’s March 4 trial date in federal court in Washington on four criminal charges prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith has already been postponed, with no new date set.
Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the favorite for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat who defeated him in 2020.
Slowing things down could benefit Trump. If he wins the November election and returns to the White House, he could use his presidential powers to force an end to prosecutions or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.
Trump’s lawyers have painted a bleak picture — rejected by the Washington, D.C. Circuit — of what would happen to future presidents if his criminal charges are allowed to go ahead, warning of partisan prosecutions, extortion, blackmail and more Again.
“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” his lawyers wrote.
“Any decision by the President on a politically controversial issue would be subject to the threat of indictment by the opposing party after a change of government. All presidential decisions would be subject to undue and unjustified pressure from opposing political forces, under threat of indictment after the change of government. The president left office,” they wrote.
“The threat of prosecution will become a political cudgel used to influence the most sensitive and important presidential decisions, with the threat of personal vulnerability after leaving office,” they added.
The D.C. Circuit’s ruling said “the risk that former presidents will be unduly harassed by meritless federal criminal prosecutions appears remote.”
Trump’s lawyers also reiterated their long-standing assertion that the prosecution was politically motivated.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority, 6-3, includes three justices appointed by Trump. Smith’s August 2023 charges were part of one of four criminal cases currently pending against Trump, including another in Georgia state court also involving his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss.
‘NO SPECIAL CONDITIONS’
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who presided over the case brought by Smith, in December rejected Trump’s request for immunity, ruling that former presidents “are not afforded any special conditions to their federal criminal liability.”
After Trump appealed, the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit also rejected Trump’s request for immunity.
“We cannot accept that the Office of the President places its former occupants above the law forever,” the committee wrote in its decision.
During the January arguments before the D.C. Circuit, one of Trump’s lawyers told the justices that even if a president sold pardons or military secrets or ordered a Navy commando to assassinate a political rival, he would not could not be criminally charged unless first indicted and convicted. in Congress.
Prosecutors argued that Trump was acting as a candidate, not a president, when he pressured officials to overturn the election results and encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol on June 6. January 2021 to pressure Congress not to certify Biden’s victory.
The indictment charged Trump with conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing Congress’ certification of Biden’s election victory and conspiring to do so, and conspiring to against Americans’ right to vote.
Trump requested last October that the charges be dismissed based on his claim of immunity from criminal prosecution related to actions taken by a president while in office.
He has regularly claimed his immunity. In 2020, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s argument that he was immune from a subpoena issued during a state criminal investigation while he was president.
In December, the Supreme Court denied Smith’s request to rule on the immunity request before the D.C. Circuit even ruled — an attempt by the prosecutor to speed up the process of resolving the case. The justices instead opted to let the lower appeals court rule first, as is customary.
(Reporting by John Kruzel; editing by Will Dunham)