The former president, who is running for re-election, claims he is immune from prosecution in the federal case in Washington because he has presidential immunity. Special counsel Jack Smith has requested the Supreme Court to rule on the case as quickly as possible.
Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan halted the case due to Trump’s immunity appeal.
If the Supreme Court rules on Trump’s argument, it might have ramifications in other cases.
According to David S. Weinstein, an attorney with Jones Walker in Miami and a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, the court is expected to rule on Smith’s motion before the end of the year, though holiday scheduling may slow it down.
Smith’s appeal to the Supreme Court cites President Richard Nixon’s 1974 Watergate case as a precedent for the court accelerating its processes, emphasizing the issue’s national significance.
“This is a matter of great public importance,” Weinstein declared. “Accepting cert [writ of certiorari] frequently occurs fast. It is in everyone’s best interests, the prosecution, the defense, and the rest of the country, to have this determined by the highest court in the land.”
Presidential immunity protects a sitting president from legal liability while fulfilling official duties. Immunity does not apply to actions that are regarded to be outside of that authority.
Trump’s legal team has also claimed that double jeopardy applies in this case because the accused conduct was also included in his second impeachment proceeding. Double jeopardy protects a party from being criminally tried for the same act more than once after it has been adjudicated.
Smith has argued that because impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, double jeopardy does not apply.
The question of whether the case should be decided in favor of Trump or the prosecution was likely to come before the Supreme Court at some point. Smith is attempting to speed up the process by asking the Supreme Court to rule on Trump’s presidential immunity claim before the trial, according to Weinstein.
On the other hand, if Trump loses the case, he will likely file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
“If he loses, that’s where he’ll go.” If the government loses, that’s where they’ll go,” Weinstein explained. “He can’t argue that this should never have happened. ‘I don’t want to skip the interim phase,’ he says.
According to Weinstein, Trump’s objection to a Supreme Court ruling is consistent with his strategy of delaying any criminal prosecutions until after the November election. This would empower Trump to instruct the Department of Justice to dismiss the charges against him and grant himself a pardon.
“When you combine this with his desire to push every one of these cases out past the general election — that’s what he hopes to do,” he went on to say. “These are all first time questions being asked of everybody.”
The trial in Washington is set to start on March 4. The trial in Manhattan over Trump’s alleged hush money payments to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels is set to begin on March 25. The trial regarding Trump’s handling of sensitive information in Florida is expected to begin on May 20.
District Attorney Fani Willis of Fulton County, Georgia, has requested an Aug. 5 start date for Trump’s election subversion trial there, though Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee is still considering how to try more than a dozen co-defendants in the case.
“If this goes in an expedited fashion, we could have the answer to this issue in early spring,” Weinstein was quoted as saying. “Then when the decision comes down, they are ready to go to trial and this case will proceed before the summer.”
Weinstein noted that a finding on double jeopardy would likely have no effect on the other claims against Trump, but a ruling on presidential immunity might. The answer to what that impact might be will become clearer when the Supreme Court issues its decision.