Special Counsel Jack Smith has made an unprecedented move by requesting the Supreme Court to swiftly resolve whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted, despite his status as a former president. This request comes amid an ongoing legal battle concerning Trump’s actions surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Smith’s team is pushing for a quick resolution to a key legal question, which is crucial for their case’s timeline, aiming for a trial in March.
The crux of the matter that Smith wants the Supreme Court to address revolves around the extent of legal immunity granted to a former president. Specifically, the question posed is whether a former president is entirely immune from federal prosecution for acts committed while in office, or if constitutional protections exist for a president who has been impeached but not convicted before the initiation of criminal proceedings.
Donald Trump, who faced impeachment over allegations of inciting the Capitol breach on January 6, 2021, and was later acquitted by the Senate, has pleaded not guilty in the federal case accusing him of unlawfully attempting to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump’s defense team previously argued for case dismissal, claiming his actions fell within his official presidential duties. However, this claim was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who emphasized that a presidential term does not grant immunity from criminal accountability.
In response to Trump’s appeal and request for a delay in the proceedings, Smith’s team has made a strategic yet risky move by directly approaching the Supreme Court on the immunity issue. This is coupled with a separate filing to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., seeking expedited proceedings, possibly anticipating the Supreme Court’s reluctance to intervene before an appellate decision.
The timing of the trial, set to commence on March 4, 2024, one day before Super Tuesday, is critical given Trump’s active campaign for a second presidential term. Trump’s ability to publicly discuss the case has been limited due to a gag order. In addition to this case, Trump faces three other criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, while consistently denying any wrongdoing and denouncing these legal challenges as politically motivated “witch hunts.”
This latest development in the legal saga surrounding Trump signifies the high stakes and unprecedented nature of the case, as it navigates uncharted constitutional and legal territory regarding a former president’s legal liabilities and protections.