Special counsel asks Supreme Court to move quickly on Trump’s immunity case

Jack Smith, the special prosecutor prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, called the Supreme Court on Wednesday to deny Mr. Trump’s request to put the case on hold while he pursues appeals.

“Delays in resolving these charges threaten to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict — a compelling interest in any criminal case and one of unique national importance here, as it involves federal criminal charges against a former president for alleged crimes. efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election, including the use of official power,” Mr. Smith wrote.

The question before the judges is preliminary: should they pause the decision of the appeals court rejecting the claim of Mr. Trump that he is absolutely immune from prosecution for things he did while president? The answer to that will determine whether the trial can proceed as the Supreme Court considers whether to hear a promised petition seeking review of the verdict itself.

The trial was due to begin on March 4, but has been postponed while lower courts decide whether Mr Trump has immunity. When a unanimous three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against Mr. Trump this month, it gave him a short window of time to ask the Supreme Court for a stay.

Request to retain Mr. Trump, filed Monday, asks the justices to delay the case long enough to allow him to ask the entire D.C. Circuit to reconsider the case and then appeal to the Supreme Court if he loses. Such demands to slow down proceedings were a central feature of Mr. Trump in the fight against criminal cases against him across the country.

Any significant delay in the federal election meddling case could push the trial into the heart of the 2024 campaign season or move it beyond the election. If Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, wins the presidency, he could order the charges to be dropped.

Mr Smith asked the Supreme Court to act quickly.

“The nation has a compelling interest in a speedy resolution of this case,” he wrote, adding that Trump’s “personal interest in delaying the trial must be weighed against two powerful competing considerations: the government’s interest in fully presenting its case without undue delay and the compelling interest public for quick resolution of the case.”

If the justices are inclined to hear Mr. Trump’s appeal, Mr. Smith added, they should set a quick schedule culminating in oral arguments next month.

“An expedited schedule would allow the court to issue its opinion and judgment addressing the immunity threshold issue as early as possible in this term,” Mr. Smith wrote, “so that, if the court denies petitioner’s immunity claim, a timely and fair trial can begin with with minimal additional delay.”

If the court hears the case, Mr. Smith wrote, it should rule against Mr. Trump.

“The alleged crimes strike at the heart of our democracy,” he wrote. “The president’s alleged criminal scheme to nullify the election and prevent a peaceful transfer of power to his successor should be the last resort to recognize a new form of absolute immunity from federal criminal law.”

The immunity case is just one of three involving Mr. Trump and the charges against him pending before the Supreme Court. Justices heard arguments last week on whether he is even eligible to hold office and will hear arguments this spring on the scope of two charges against him in a federal election meddling case brought by Mr. Smith.

Lower courts have rejected Trump’s claim that he is completely immune from prosecution for acts he committed as president.

The judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, ruled that Mr. Trump could stand trial. “Whatever immunity the current president enjoys,” she wrote, “the United States only has one CEO at a time, and that position does not provide a ‘get out of jail free’ pass for life.

The Court of Appeal panel agreed. “For purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump becomes Trump, with all the defenses of any other defendant,” the panel wrote in an unsigned decision. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he was president no longer protects him from this prosecution.”

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