The Supreme Court has rejected Jack Smith's request that the justices quickly hear the immunity case against Trump



CNN

Supreme Court on Friday Rejected Special counsel Jack Smith's request to fast-track arguments about whether Donald Trump has any immunity from federal prosecution for alleged crimes he committed while in office — which could delay his trial.

The court did not explain its reasoning and there were no significant dissents.

The court's decision was a major blow to Smith, who made the unusual gamble of bypassing a federal appeals court in his election-sabotage criminal case against Trump and asking the justices to quickly resolve the underlying issue.

Both sides have the option of appealing the DC Circuit Court of Appeals' final decision all the way to the Supreme Court, but the court's move is a big win for Trump. The immunity question must be resolved before his case goes to trial.

An expedited review of the issue is already underway in the DC Circuit, which plans oral arguments on January 9. The election tampering inquiry is currently set to begin in March.

“The real question is what happens then,” said Steve Vladek, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “If the appeals court were to reject Trump's claim, would it stay the trial pending further Supreme Court review, or would it allow the trial to move forward and force Trump to seek a stay from the Supreme Court? It's still possible that the trial will begin on March 4, but the Supreme Court's apparent willingness to let the D.C. Circuit go first makes the chances at least somewhat — perhaps significantly — slim.

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In urging the court not to take up the case, Trump's lawyers argued that the special counsel was “reluctantly trying to rush to a decision on abandoned issues.”

“The fact that this case is arising in the midst of a political controversy warrants caution, not urgency,” Trump's lawyers wrote in court documents.

After the Supreme Court's rejection, Trump continued to insist he was immune from federal prosecutions, writing on social media Friday. “I was the President and it was my right and duty to investigate and speak about the fraudulent and stolen 2020 presidential election. Looking forward to the most important arguments on presidential immunity before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals! he wrote on social media on Friday.

Trump's team earlier this month asked the appeals court to review it immunity District Judge issued Tanya SudkhanWho is overseeing his criminal case?

Sutgen had rejected arguments by Trump's lawyers that the criminal charges should be thrown out because he was working to “ensure election integrity” as part of his official capacity as president when he allegedly undermined the results of the 2020 election, so he is protected under presidential immunity. The judge has Suspended All procedural deadlines in the case while the appeal is active.

But Smith's group tried to avoid an appeals court review by having the justices step in now.

“It is of public importance that the defendant's immunity claims be resolved by this court and that, if his immunity is denied, that the defendant's trial proceed as promptly as possible,” Smith's group wrote in its petition to the Supreme Court.

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Smith pointed to a Watergate-era case in which the Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals, where the justices ultimately rejected then-President Richard Nixon's claims of presidential privilege in a subpoena fight over Oval Office tapes.

“Here, the stakes are at least as high, if not higher: the resolution of the question posed is crucial to whether the former president himself will stand trial – which is scheduled to begin within three months of the future” The special counsel wrote in court documents.

The lawyers asked the court to decide whether Trump is protected by double jeopardy. Defense attorneys have argued that because Trump was acquitted by the Senate during his impeachment trial, he cannot be tried criminally for the same crimes.



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Smith strongly pushed back against Trump's claim this March that prosecutors were trying to unfairly impeach him, writing that the claims were “baseless and false.”

The former president, Smith, told the justices that “serious crimes have been indicted because a grand jury followed the facts and applied the law. Whatever the outcome, the government seeks resolution from this court to ensure that those charges are resolved promptly.”

Trump used the Supreme Court's order to quickly begin raising funds, emphasizing his ongoing legal battles and taking aim at the Justice Department.

“Supreme Court Rejects Biden Lawyer's Urgent Request to Strip My Right to Presidential Impeachment,” the fundraiser's message read. “I will still have to fight for my rights in the Court of Appeals – the Biden special counsel will do everything in their power to speed up my sham trial and get me wrongly convicted before the 2024 election.”

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CNN's Jeff Zelini and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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