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US Supreme Court to decide Trump criminal immunity claim in 2020 election case

Published 02/28/2024, 05:08 PM
Updated 02/28/2024, 06:36 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a rally in advance of the New Hampshire primary election in Laconia, New Hampshire, U.S. January 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide Donald Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, giving him a boost as he tries to delay criminal prosecutions while running to regain the presidency.

The justices put on hold the criminal case being pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith and will review a lower court's rejection of Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution because he was president when he took actions aimed at reversing President Joe Biden's election victory over him.

The Supreme Court set the case for oral argument during the week of April 22 on a single question: "Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office."

Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

The case once again thrusts the nation's top judicial body, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump, into the election fray. The Supreme Court also is due to issue a ruling on whether to overturn a judicial decision that barred Trump from Colorado's Republican primary ballot based on a constitutional provision regarding insurrection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 6 ruled 3-0 against Trump's immunity claim, rejecting his bid for "unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power - the recognition and implementation of election results."

Smith was appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in November 2022. In August 2023, Smith brought four federal criminal counts against Trump in the election subversion case. A March 4 trial date was postponed as Trump pressed his immunity claim, with no new date yet set.

Trump has three other pending criminal cases, with a trial in New York state court concerning hush money paid to a porn star set to begin on March 25. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all of them, seeking to portray them as politically motivated.

Trump, in a post on his social media platform, hailed the Supreme Court's decision to hear his immunity claim.

"Without Presidential Immunity, a President will not be able to properly function, or make decisions, in the best interest of the United States of America," Trump wrote. "Presidents will always be concerned, and even paralyzed, by the prospect of wrongful prosecution and retaliation after they leave office. This could actually lead to the extortion and blackmail of a President."

Representatives for the special counsel's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Smith's charges accused Trump of conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing the congressional certification of Biden's electoral victory and conspiring to do so, and conspiring against right of Americans to vote.

Trump and his allies made false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and devised a plan to use false electors to thwart congressional certification of Biden's victory. Trump also sought to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence not to allow certification to go forward. Trump's supporters attacked the Capitol in a bid to prevent the certification.

If Trump regains the presidency, he could seek to use his powers to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.

'ABOVE THE LAW'

Trump last October sought to have the charges dismissed based on his claim of immunity. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that claim in December.

During January arguments in his appeal, one of Trump's lawyers told the D.C. Circuit judges that even if a president sold pardons or military secrets or ordered a Navy commando unit to assassinate a political rival, he could not be criminally charged unless he is first impeached and convicted in Congress.

In its decision rejecting Trump's immunity claim, the three-judge panel wrote: "We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter."

Supreme Court justices during arguments on Feb. 8 signaled skepticism toward a ruling by Colorado's top court that barred Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot, based on the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, after finding he engaged in an insurrection related to the Capitol attack.

© Reuters. Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 2024 National Religious Broadcasters Association International Christian Media Convention, as part of the NRB Presidential Forum in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., February 22, 2024.  REUTERS/Seth Herald

The Colorado and immunity cases put the Supreme Court in the election spotlight in the most direct way since its 2000 ruling that effectively handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.

In a separate case to be argued on April 16, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a man involved in the Capitol attack can be charged with obstructing an official proceeding - the congressional certification of the 2020 election results. That case has potential implications for Trump because Smith brought two obstruction-related charges.

Latest comments

No insurrection trial before November election, thanks to SCOTUS and their stay of the criminal insurrection trial. SCOTUS is totally rotten, they where supposed to uphold and defend the constitution and now they support Trump who tried to steal the 2020 election directly against the constitution.
Yep!  We ALL saw those tweets where Trump told the masses to heavily arm themselves and perform a coup against Congress.
Okie dokie. That's your view. Let's adjudicate ALL of the evidence in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.
SCOTUS just delivered what trumps wanted, they have dropped all pUsibilities for the voters to get accountability for Trumps insurrection before the November Election. Unfortunately american people will now be denied to see all the evidence of the jan 6th. insurrection before choosing their next president. SCOTUS is as rotten as it gets. They could easily have said that the claim of absolute immunity is ridiculous and not take the case or they could have made sure that the case was expidited quickly so the jan 6th insurrection trials could begin, however they chose to support the Trump delay tactics. Dictatorship is comming for US, it will be the voters who will decide if law and order should prevail or we go straight to Putin world
Excuse me!  Mr. Moderator, we need some gun control in here as a couple of people are really triggered!
Still remember the CCTV of those Ballot counters in Georgia pulling out those Boxes of Ballots from under the tables around 11 PM AFTER Trump was ahead in the Georgia polling count. Yea .... This year may be the same. Dems are getting out the old 2020 playbook. Cheat. Anyway, Love to All, Charles.
You mean the video that Rudy Guilliqni mischaracterized to the magadupes and for which his misrepresentation caused him to be found civilly libel for slander to the tune of $14 million? That video?
Just maybe the Georgia delegates won't be needed this time.
Election security is not the purview of a president. Cajoling election officials to find nonexistent votes, directing a scheme to create fake electors and sending a mob to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power are not the official acts of the office of the president.
"All I want is to find eleven thousand seven hundred eighty votes, which is one more than we have." Trump's own recorded words to Georgia Secretary of State are not Democratic propaganda and will seem so only or the willfully ignorant. (See above.)
Did Trump threaten him?  Or simply inquire about "finding" votes?
"finding." Look at the behavior you are defending.
For over 240 years the dire warning of criminal persecutions of a losing president have never happened. Indeed, the American justice system would render such efforts futile. What's different this time? The losing president committed crimes.
what crime? I will wait. let the CNN wish list begin
Here's a better idea. Let's have the 91 indictments adjudicated by the justice system. That won't happen if Trump gets set apart as the one person in all of American history for whom the laws don't apply. Allegiance to the conman or allegiance to justice for all?
Sorry Charles supreme court will say citizen Trump a president is not have complete immunity a certainly not immunity to try to overthrow a presidential election. If they say otherwise there is no america.
So ..... The Immunity Case gets pushed back past the November elections. The Dems are sooooo angry. Oh well, better luck next time. Big Don has always been light years ahead and 20 moves ahead on the Political Chessboard.  Such foolish attempts to De-Throne him. Sleep Well America, Gloriuis Patriotic Days ahead. Love tomAll, Charles.
No man is above the law and we the people who elects our leaders. That is a fundamental democratic principle. If we lose this we have no democracy and elections are no longer relevant because the president can hire seal team six to hunt down all political opponents.
thats right you need to have a half brain to see it.
Half a brain and no self-respect.
way to take a dig at yourself 🤣
They will unanimously rule that a sitting President is immune from prosecution in the execution of his office. Next trial, please. Love to All, Charles.
Get real. It is not in the execution of the office of the president to tell the Georgia Secretary of State to "find eleven thousand seven hundred and eighty votes, which is one more than we have.," slopid fcjk.
 Eat Crow Brad ..... 9-0.
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