Former President Donald Trump’s legal battle against special counsel Jack Smith reached a roadblock on Friday when the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to fast-track the case. In a short order, the high court denied Smith’s request to expedite consideration of the immunity from prosecution question in the case.
This ruling deals a blow to Smith’s efforts to speed up the case in Washington, D.C., and have the trial against the former president begin in March. However, the case remains with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has accepted Smith’s request to consider the immunity claim on an expedited basis and has scheduled oral arguments for January 9.
Smith’s team had filed a petition to the Supreme Court on December 13, asking the high court to review the immunity issue before the federal appeals court had a chance to rule on the matter. They argued that there is precedent from the Nixon Watergate tapes case and that the question of whether a former president is immune from prosecution for crimes committed while in office or impeached but not convicted should be resolved by the Supreme Court before the trial begins.
“The Court should grant certiorari and set a briefing schedule that would permit this case to be argued and resolved as promptly as possible,” wrote Smith’s team.
They also argued for the urgency of the matter, stating that the case is of “imperative public importance.”
Trump’s lawyers, on the other hand, urged the Supreme Court not to intervene and stated, “The public importance of the issue of presidential immunity instead calls for it to be resolved in a cautious, deliberative manner — not at breakneck speed.”
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The former president, who has been accused of unlawfully plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, denied the charges and pleaded not guilty in the federal case in October. His legal team had filed a motion to dismiss the case last month by arguing that his actions as president were within the “heartland” of his official duties. However, the motion was rejected by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who set the trial to begin on March 4, 2024 – just one day before Super Tuesday.
Trump is also facing three other criminal cases and multiple civil litigation proceedings. His lawyers have argued that these charges are politically motivated and are part of a “witch hunt” against him.
This Supreme Court ruling comes just weeks after Trump expressed his disappointment on Twitter over the gag order that restricts him from discussing the case publicly.
His spokesperson released a statement last week, accusing Smith of election interference and criticized the prosecutor for asking the Supreme Court to speed up the case.
The high court’s decision to reject Smith’s appeal means that the immunity question will be addressed by the federal appeals court first before making its way to the Supreme Court. However, regardless of the outcome, it is likely that Trump’s legal battle with Smith will continue for months, if not years, to come.