Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Monday to freeze the federal charges tied to his effort to overturn the 2020 election, putting the nine justices in the center of a high-stakes legal battle leading up to the 2024 presidential contest.
What the Supreme Court decides to do with Monday’s emergency application from the former president could influence whether Trump faces trial in Washington before the 2024 election.
In the application, the former president’s lawyers request relief from a procedure set by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which last week ruled Trump was not immune from federal charges for actions he took while he was in office.
The DC Circuit gave Trump until Monday to ask the Supreme Court to intervene on the issue. In Monday’s application, Trump argued that he should also be able to first appeal the decision to the full DC Circuit and then appeal that to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“This Court should remain the DC Circuit’s mandate to forestall, once again, an unprecedented and unacceptable departure from ordinary appellate procedures and allow President Trump’s claim of immunity to be decided in the ordinary course of justice,” the application states.
Without intervention from the Supreme Court, Trump’s application argues, the DC Circuit ruling “appears to authorize the district court to resume criminal proceedings immediately.”
Prosecutors led by special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith in December had asked the Supreme Court to step in and take up the immunity issue at that time. They called Trump’s arguments “profoundly mistaken” and claimed he was using the courts to delay a trial until after the election. The justices declined to intervene at the time.
Trump’s attorneys, in arguing Monday that the lower court timeline should be rejected, said that the DC Circuit panel’s ruling was a “stunning violation of precedent and historical norms.”
“In 234 years of American history, no President was ever prosecuted for his official acts. Nor should they be,” Trump attorneys argued in Monday’s filing. “If the prosecution of a President is upheld, such prosecutions will recur and become increasingly common, ushering in destructive cycles of recrimination.”
The DC Circuit panel unanimously rejected Trump’s arguments. The panel found that his status as president at the time did not protect him from criminal charges now and gave him until Monday to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.
The opinion upheld a trial judge’s ruling that would have allowed the case to proceed. The trial in the case, originally scheduled for March, has been put on hold while Trump’s appeal on the immunity issue is still pending.
The accusation alleges that Trump tried to stop vote counting in multiple states, arranged for several slates of false electors and ultimately encouraged then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the Electoral College votes of states Trump lost on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump has argued for presidential immunity in multiple cases so far, including federal civil suits seeking damages from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and in a Georgia state case alleging that Trump committed crimes while attempting to overturn his 2020 loss in the stay.
In a filing last month, Trump indicated he may appeal to the Supreme Court a DC Circuit decision from December that found no presidential civil immunity. He has until Thursday to ask the Supreme Court to rule on that case.
The issues involved in Monday’s appeal only deal with the federal charges tied to Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.