After the Supreme Court denied a request from Special Counsel Jack Smith to subvert the typical court process to rule on Donald Trump’s immunity in the 2020 presidential election case, the former president is now petitioning the appeals court to throw that case out altogether.
On Saturday, Trump’s legal team filed a challenge saying that the appellate court that will now hear the case should dismiss it. As he lawyers wrote in the recent filing:
“[Trump has] absolute immunity from prosecution for his official acts [as president].”
They wrote that this includes him seeking to “advocate for and defend the integrity of the federal election, in accord with his view that it was tainted by fraud and irregularity.”
The U.S. district judge in the case, Tanya Chutkan, denied the claim to immunity that Trump’s lawyers had made when the case was before her. In her ruling, she wrote that Trump’s “four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”
In addition, Chutkan denied his defense that he was allowed to do what he wanted that day because his speech was protected by the First Amendment.
Trump’s side appealed the immunity claim decision, rejecting that the proceedings pause while the appeal took place. That request was granted.
Smith responded to that decision by asking the Supreme Court to take up Trump’s claim on immunity on an expedited basis. His aim was to get the high court to rule quickly on it so that there wouldn’t be a big delay in the trial, which is scheduled for March 4, 2024.
Smith apparently wants the case to proceed in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election, rather than after it takes place.
However, the Supreme Court rejected his request, which puts in serious jeopardy the trial’s start date.
As a result, oral arguments will be held before the appellate court on January 9.
In their brief, Trump’s legal team argues that the former president can’t be prosecuted criminally for any conduct that he took while he was in the White House – unless the House would’ve impeached him and the Senate removed him from office.
Trump was actually impeached by the House for his role in the Capitol riot. However, the Senate acquitted him on those charges during his trial there.
As such, Trump’s lawyers say the indictment handed down by Smith in this case is “unlawful and unconstitutional.” They say that because of that, the order from the district court should be reversed, with the case being thrown out altogether.
If it’s not, they argue, Trump would be facing double jeopardy – being tried for the same alleged crime twice.
In the unsealed indictment, Smith argued the “unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy” was “fueled” by the alleged lies Trump told that were “targeted at obstructing the bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”