Donald Trump on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put on hold a judicial decision rejecting his claim that he is immune from being prosecuted for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, arguing that without such a shield “the presidency as we know it will cease to exist.”
Trump, seeking to regain the presidency in the Nov. 5 U.S. election, asked the justices to pause a Feb. 6 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejecting his claim of immunity from prosecution.
Trump’s lawyers in a brief to the Supreme Court warned that “conducting a months-long criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign” against President Joe Biden ahead of the election.
They asked the justices to halt the trial proceedings pending their bid for the full slate of judges on the D.C. Circuit to reconsider the case, and, if necessary, an appeal to the Supreme Court. A March 4 trial date for Trump in federal court in Washington on four criminal counts pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith already was postponed, with no new date set.
Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat who defeated him in 2020.
Slowing the case could benefit Trump. If he wins the November election and returns to the White House, he could use his presidential powers to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.
Trump’s lawyers painted a dark picture – rejected by the D.C. Circuit – of what would befall future presidents if his criminal prosecution is allowed to proceed, warning of partisan prosecutions, extortion, blackmail and more.
The D.C. Circuit’s decision stated that the “risk that former presidents will be unduly harassed by meritless federal criminal prosecutions appears slight.”
Trump’s lawyers also repeated his longstanding claim that the prosecution is politically motivated.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. The charges brought by Smith in August 2023 came in one of four criminal cases now pending against Trump, including another one in a Georgia state court also involving his efforts to undo his 2020 loss.