Donald Trump

US S’Court declines to fast-track Trump ‘absolute immunity’ case

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The United States Supreme Court declined on Friday to immediately hear former president Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, potentially delaying his 2020 election interference trial.

Special Counsel Jack Smith had asked the nation’s highest court to take up the immunity case on an expedited basis, bypassing the federal court of appeals.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices nominated by Trump, denied the request in a one-line order that did not provide any reason for the decision.

The 77-year-old Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is currently scheduled to go on trial on March 4, 2024 on charges of conspiring to overturn the November 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly sought to delay the trial until after next year’s election, including with the claim that a former president enjoys “absolute immunity” and cannot be prosecuted for actions he took while in the White House.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is to preside over Trump’s March trial, rejected the immunity claim on December 1, saying a former president does not have a “lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”

“Defendant’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,” she added.

Trump’s lawyers appealed Chutkan’s decision to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and Smith, the special counsel, asked the Supreme Court to step in and hear the case itself.

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“This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office,” Smith said in a filing to the Supreme Court.

“It is of paramount public importance that respondent’s claims of immunity be resolved as expeditiously as possible — and, if respondent is not immune, that he receive a fair and speedy trial on these charges,” he said.

– Appeals court hearing on January 9 –

With the Supreme Court’s rejection of Smith’s request, the appeals court will now first hear the immunity case.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said this could make it difficult to maintain the March trial date.

Tobias noted the Supreme Court had agreed to “fast-track” appeals in 19 cases over the past four years and it was unclear why the justices had declined to do so here.

Trump welcomed the Supreme Court’s move and said he was looking forward to presenting his arguments before the appeals court.

“Of course I am entitled to Presidential Immunity,” he said in a post on his Truth Social platform.

“I was President, it was my right and duty to investigate, and speak on, the rigged and stolen 2020 Presidential Election,” he said, repeating his baseless claims to have won the election.

The DC appeals court has scheduled arguments for January 9 and its ruling is expected to eventually reach the Supreme Court, whose current session ends in June.

Trump’s lawyers are also expected to ask the nation’s highest court to rule on a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that would keep the former president off the Republican primary ballot in the western state.

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The Colorado court ruled Tuesday that Trump had incited an insurrection — the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters — and was therefore ineligible to hold office again.

The US Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a challenge to the use of a law behind one of the charges lodged against Trump and hundreds of his supporters who took part in the attack on the Capitol.

Trump was indicted in Washington in August for conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction for his efforts to upend the results of the 2020 election.

He faces similar election-related charges in Georgia and has been indicted in Florida for alleged mishandling of top secret documents after leaving the White House.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives following the attack on the Capitol for “incitement of insurrection” but was acquitted by the Senate.

AFP



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