In a compelling move, special counsel Jack Smith is urgently petitioning the Supreme Court to address Donald Trump’s immunity claim regarding charges tied to alleged interference in the 2020 election. Smith emphasizes the pressing need for the Supreme Court’s immediate intervention, warning that a delay in Trump’s trial could become indefinite without swift action. The trial, set to commence on March 4, is effectively halted as Trump appeals the rejection of his immunity arguments by the trial judge. Smith contends that resolving this unprecedented legal question is vital for the prompt progression of the case.
By directly approaching the Supreme Court, Smith seeks to bypass the federal appeals court, launching an assertive effort to maintain the trial’s election-focused timeline. If the March 4 trial date holds, it will mark Trump’s first trial among the four criminal cases he faces as he pursues re-election to the White House.
Acknowledging the extraordinary nature of the request, Smith urges an accelerated consideration by the Supreme Court, proposing the possibility of oral arguments early next year. Drawing parallels to the Watergate conspirators’ trial, Smith emphasizes the need for swift resolution. The Supreme Court responded promptly to Smith’s motion, directing Trump’s lawyers to respond by December 20, slightly past the prosecutors’ proposed deadline. Trump contends absolute immunity, asserting that his actions as president to ensure the 2020 election’s integrity qualify as “official acts.” Prosecutors counter that Trump’s repeated false claims and their use to pressure officials do not constitute official acts.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled on December 1 that Trump lacks immunity, a decision Trump has appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump demands a halt to proceedings during the appeal. While the Supreme Court recognizes presidential immunity from many civil lawsuits, it has not directly addressed whether presidents can face criminal prosecution for alleged offenses during their tenure.
Trump dismisses Smith’s petition as a “Hail Mary” attempt to bypass the appellate process, asserting that the rush to trial aims to harm him and his supporters. The petition, signed by Smith, deputies J.P. Cooney and James Pearce, also bears the signature of Michael Dreeben, a former top deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller and an experienced Supreme Court litigator. This marks the first public indication of Dreeben collaborating with Smith.