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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Trump Appeals to Supreme Court to Delay 2020 Election Conspiracy Trial


Tue 13 Feb 2024 | 10:46 PM
Donald Trump
Donald Trump
By Ahmad El-Assasy

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has petitioned the Supreme Court for an extension to delay his trial over allegations of interfering in the 2020 elections, claiming presidential immunity from prosecution for conspiring to overturn his election loss.

Trump's defense team made an emergency request to the Supreme Court on Monday, just four days after the country's highest court held a hearing in a separate case initiated by Trump to remain on presidential ballots, despite some states' attempts to remove his name due to his post-2020 election actions.

The defense argued, "Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency as we know it would cease to exist," echoing arguments that have so far failed in federal courts.

This legal move could suspend what might be a historic criminal trial for a former president until the Supreme Court decides whether the leading Republican candidate in the primary elections will face trial before the upcoming presidential elections in November.

Timeline and Legal Strategies

There is no set timeline for the Court to act, but Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice, has strongly advocated for the trial to take place this year. Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly sought to delay the case. If Trump defeats Democratic President Joe Biden, he might attempt to use his position to direct the new Attorney General to dismiss the federal cases he faces or even pardon himself.

The Supreme Court's options include denying the emergency appeal, which would allow U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to resume trial proceedings in federal court in Washington. The trial was initially scheduled to begin in early March, but its timing now depends on the Supreme Court's decision, which could also extend the delay while hearing arguments related to the immunity issue.

In December, Smith urged the judges to address the immunity issue and make a decision, even before the appeal court had reviewed its decision, stating, "It is of paramount public importance that this Court resolve the defendant's claim of immunity and that the defendant's trial proceed as soon as possible if his immunity claim is denied," as written by the prosecutors.

Partisan Motives and Presidential Immunity

Trump's legal team has linked the push for a speedy trial to partisan motives. They argued that a months-long criminal trial for President Trump during the peak election season would radically disrupt his ability to campaign against President Biden, suggesting that this appears to be the underlying motive behind the special counsel's continual demands for speed. The legal team, led by John Sauer, stated that the courts should not rush the trial because the question of presidential immunity from criminal charges is a "novel, complex, and grave question that requires careful consideration on appeal."

In their request to keep the trial pending, Trump's lawyers indicated they would seek to extend the delay by asking the full federal appeals court in Washington to review the case, before formally appealing to the Supreme Court.

The decision now rests with the Supreme Court, where Trump appointed three justices—Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh—during his presidency. However, the Supreme Court has previously rejected Trump and his allies' challenges regarding the 2020 elections and refused to prevent the release of his tax records and other documents to congressional committees and New York prosecutors.

Previously, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that presidents enjoy immunity from civil liability for official acts, and Trump's attorneys have argued for months that this protection should extend to criminal prosecution as well.

Last week, a judicial panel unanimously dismissed Trump's new claims of absolute immunity for former presidents for actions within their official duties.

The Washington case is one of four trials Trump faces in his bid to reclaim the White House. He is charged federally in Florida for illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, in Georgia for plotting to sabotage the 2020 state elections, and in New York related to secret payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.