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Donald Trump has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a ruling that barred him from using presidential immunity as a shield against criminal charges accusing him of interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
The filing Monday by Trump’s lawyers comes as he fights to convince U.S. courts that he is legally protected from a federal indictment filed by the Justice Department accusing him of interfering with the election of 2020.
“Trump’s assertion that presidents enjoy absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for their official acts poses a new, complex and momentous question that merits careful consideration on appeal,” his lawyers said in the brief.
The trial in the federal election interference case, which was scheduled to begin March 4, has been postponed to an undisclosed date. Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, proceedings in the case could resume within days, Trump’s lawyers warned.
Trump’s lawyers said they would ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, as well as further review from the full appeals court.
The DoJ declined to comment.
The request comes as the Supreme Court considers a separate appeal involving Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential election. He seeks to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him from the state’s primary ballot on the grounds that he had engaged in an insurrection. The evidence in this case relates to January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
If the Supreme Court ultimately rules on Trump’s claim to presidential immunity, it will plunge into one of the most tense legal debates in the United States. Although supported in various forms by many scholars, presidential immunity is a vague stipulation that is not explicitly defined in either the constitution or law. A handful of Justice Department memos and Supreme Court rulings keep the doctrine alive, but the high court has yet to rule on cases involving criminal charges against a president.
“If the prosecution of a president is upheld, such prosecutions will recur and become increasingly common, setting the stage for destructive cycles of recrimination,” Trump’s lawyers said in their Monday filing.
Immunity is a key defense strategy for the ex-president, who faces 91 criminal charges in four separate criminal cases. He pleaded not guilty.
Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal cases against Trump, sought last year to speed up consideration of the immunity request, bypassing the appeals court. The Supreme Court denied his petition, letting the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit speak first.
Citing Hall of Fame baseball catcher Yogi Berra, Trump’s lawyers said Monday’s request was “déjà vu once again.”
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge appeals court panel said last week that Trump was not entitled to immunity because he was no longer president.
“For the purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump has become a Trump citizen, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the judges wrote in their order. “But any executive immunity that might have protected him while he was president no longer protects him from these prosecutions.”
Trump’s lawyers had asked the appeals court to consider a broad interpretation of immunity, arguing that a former president can only be prosecuted if he has been previously impeached and convicted by Congress for crimes similar – even in some of the most extreme circumstances.
The DoJ told the court that as a former president, Trump was not entitled to legal protection and that his case was “not the place to recognize a new form of criminal immunity.”