In a move that angered former President Donald Trump the Supreme Court has agreed to take up a petition by special counsel Jack Smith on whether he can be prosecuted on charges he plotted to overturn the 2020 election results.
A federal judge earlier ruled the case could go forward, but Trump said he would ask the federal appeals court in Washington to reverse that outcome. Smith is attempting to bypass the appeals court – the usual next step in the process – and have the Supreme Court take up the matter directly.
The Trump campaign railed against the Special Counsel’s petition to the Supreme Court to rule on whether the former President has immunity from federal prosecution, accusing Smith of launching a “Hail Mary” to keep Trump from retaking the White House in 2024.
“Crooked Joe Biden’s henchman, Deranged Jack Smith is so obsessed with interfering in the 2024 Presidential Election with the goal of preventing President Trump from retaking the Oval Office, as the President is poised to do, that Smith is willing to try for a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the appellate process,” a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign said in a statement reported by The Hill’s Miranda Nazzaro.
The spokesperson repeated Trump’s longtime assertion that the case against the former president is “completely politically motivated.”
Trump has argued he is immune from the Department of Justice (DOJ) charges on the grounds that his actions leading up the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot were protected by presidential immunity.
The Supreme Court’s Monday decision does not mean it will take up the case—it simply means the nine-judge panel will make that decision on a much faster timeline than it normally would, noted Josh Fiallo of the Daily Beast.
If the case is accepted, it will be the first time the high court will weigh in on the criminal charges facing the former president—specifically, whether his challenges to the 2020 election were protected by presidential immunity, something Trump has repeatedly claimed.
Trump’s election subversion trial was slated to begin on March 4 in Washington, D.C., but his legal team asked U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to delay proceedings while he pursued an appeal.
Trump’s decision to appeal became public after Judge Chutkan ruled earlier this month that Trump could not be immune to prosecution because he’s no longer president.
In an 81-page filing Smith wrote that it “is of imperative public importance” a decision on Trump’s immunity be reached as soon as possible. He’s previously accused Trump of using legal delay tactics to push each of his quartet of criminal trials until after the 2024 presidential election, where he remains the Republican Party’s clear frontrunner.
Mr. Fiallo reported Smith asked the high court to consider having oral arguments to discuss the matter sometime early next year. He added there is some precedent for his request—likening his request for an expedited decision to a similar case related to the Watergate scandal, when the high court resolved a petition penned by then-President Richard Nixon in about two months.
According to FOX News, the Court has asked Trump’s lawyers to respond to the special counsel's motion by next Wednesday, December 20 – two days later than Smith had requested.
The Court’s next scheduled conference day for consideration of such matters is Jan. 5, 2024. The court's brief order did not signal what it ultimately would do.
"There is absolutely no reason to rush this sham to trial except to injure President Trump and tens of millions of his supporters," Trump's campaign spokesperson said. "President Trump will continue to fight for Justice and oppose these authoritarian tactics."
As Connor Walcott observed in an article for VT.com, if the Court rules against Trump and the case is allowed to proceed as scheduled, the former President will stand trial on March 4, 2024—one day before Super Tuesday, a crucial voting day in the Republican primary. Trump has repeatedly attempted to delay the prosecution until after the 2024 election, while Smith has sought to preempt it in what Trump calls “attempted election interference.”
However, it is entirely possible that Smith’s motion will be rejected outright. Meaning, if the Court rules in Trump’s favor, the former President could be granted immunity, effectively ending the case and establishing a precedent for Trump’s other criminal trials.
January 6 case
Special Counsel petition
Judge Tanya Chutkan