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politics

Supreme Court won’t decide yet whether Trump is immune from prosecution

Smith, however, hoped to move past the appeals court and now bring the issue of immunity directly to the Supreme Court. The justices denied his request in a terse, one-line order and offered no explanation for their refusal to rule now. None of the justices recorded a dissent from the decision.

Smith argued in his motion to the court that a speedy resolution of Trump’s presidential immunity claim was in the urgent national interest.

A spokesperson for the special prosecutor declined to comment on the High Court’s decision.

Trump responded quickly to the decision by seeking to raise funds.

“The Supreme Court just denied Biden’s attorney’s emergency request to strip me of my right to presidential immunity…but the battle is not over,” Trump said in an email requesting donations to a political action committee linked to his 2024 presidential campaign.

About an hour later, the former president issued a statement welcoming the court’s decision.

“The Supreme Court unanimously rejected Deranged Jack Smith’s desperate attempt to short-circuit our Great Constitution,” Trump said.
wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. “Crooked Joe Biden and his cronies waited three years to bring this bogus case, and now they have tried, unsuccessfully, to rush this witch hunt through the courts. Of course, I have presidential immunity. I was president, it was my right and duty to investigate and speak out about the rigged and stolen 2020 presidential election.”

Although Trump claimed Friday’s decision was unanimous, the court did not disclose its vote on the issue.

But, for now, Trump’s immunity claims will remain before a three-judge panel of the Washington DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

How quickly the D.C. Circuit rules — and how quickly the case returns to the justices — will determine whether Friday’s denial turns out to be merely a minor setback for Smith or a catastrophic delay that makes holding a hearing virtually impossible trial before the November elections. The panel that will consider the issue includes two Biden appointees – Florence Pan and Michelle Childs – and Karen Henderson, a George HW Bush appointee.

Although appeals courts often operate at glacial speed, the Washington D.C. Circuit has shown unusual urgency on a range of issues related to Trump’s criminal case. During secret grand jury proceedings, for example, the court on at least six occasions waived Trump’s claims of executive and attorney-client privilege in order to compel testimony from his top aides and lawyers .

And a federal appeals court in Georgia, acting on a case related to Trump’s criminal charges in Atlanta, recently resolved a complex controversy raised by his former chief of staff Mark Meadows within a single business day after oral arguments.

For now, however, the question of whether Trump is immune from the indictment filed by a Washington grand jury has halted his trial. Smith accused Trump of conspiring to derail the transfer of power by attempting to disenfranchise millions of voters and pressuring state and federal officials to overturn the results elections based on false allegations of electoral fraud. Trump claimed he was acting in his official capacity as president during this time, saying that made the charges unconstitutional.

The trial is one of four criminal proceedings Trump faces and is expected to go to trial first. Trump’s legal calendar for 2024 is a whirlwind of civil and criminal litigation that is now even murkier.

Because Trump is the first ex-president to face criminal charges – particularly for his actions while in office – the Supreme Court has never faced the question of criminal immunity in this context.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s trial, rejected Trump’s request for immunity earlier this month, prompting Trump to appeal to the Washington DC Circuit.

The Supreme Court’s action Friday will allow that appeal to proceed, but does not prevent the losing party in the appeals court from asking the justices to intervene at that point.

However, this means that if the Supreme Court decides to intervene, Trump’s federal trial related to the 2020 election would almost certainly be delayed, perhaps significantly.

Some legal experts have predicted that Justice Clarence Thomas could recuse himself from the Trump case because it stems from his actions on January 6, 2021, and his broader efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election. Thomas’ wife, Ginni, urged the White House to continue this fight in the weeks following the election.

However, there is no indication in Friday’s High Court order that Thomas did not participate in the case. In October of this year, Thomas withdrew when the court dismissed another case related to January 6.

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