Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Mar-a-Lago on February 8, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Joe Raedle | fake images
Donald Trump's lawyers on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily suspend a ruling rejecting his claim that he is immune from criminal charges for trying to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.
“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” Trump's lawyers wrote in a request for the Supreme Court to stay the lower court's ruling.
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last Tuesday unanimously denied Trump's argument that he cannot be prosecuted for any official acts he performed as president.
That ruling would end Trump's effort to dismiss special counsel Jack Smith's case and restart proceedings in federal district court in DC.
But the panel delayed its 57-page ruling from taking effect until Monday, giving Trump's lawyers time to ask the Supreme Court to put the case on hold while they appeal to the nation's highest court.
In requesting that pause Monday afternoon, defense attorneys argued that the high court should “prevent, once again, an unprecedented and unacceptable departure from ordinary appellate procedures and allow President Trump's immunity claim to be decided.” in the ordinary course of justice.”
Trump's immunity claim “presents a novel, complex and consequential issue that deserves careful consideration on appeal,” his lawyers wrote.
Allowing a former president to face criminal prosecution for official acts will lead to “destructive cycles of recrimination,” and the threat of future indictments will “hang like a millstone around the neck of every future president,” they argued.
They also argued that the appeals court order will threaten “immediate and irreparable harm to the First Amendment interests” of Trump and millions of voters, because it will accelerate a trial that will “inevitably disrupt President Trump's ability to campaign against President”. [Joe] Biden.”
Trump has sought to delay his multiple criminal and civil cases as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. He is currently the clear favorite of the Republican Party, which sets up a probable rematch with Biden.
Trump's stay request keeps the case on hold, at least until the Supreme Court issues a decision on whether to grant the request. An individual judge can make that decision.
The nine-member Supreme Court includes three justices who were appointed under Trump, but Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated by former President George W. Bush, is assigned to handle matters coming from DC.
Last week's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld District Judge Tanya Chutkan's earlier decision denying Trump's claim to “absolute” presidential immunity.
Protesters demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court on February 8, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Julia Nikhinson | fake images
“For the purposes of this criminal case, former President Trump has become a Trump citizen, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” read the ruling by appellate judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan.
“But any executive immunity that may have protected him while president no longer protects him against this prosecution,” they ruled.
Trump's lawyers have argued that the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine prevents courts from reviewing a president's official acts. They also maintained that the same doctrine requires immunity so as not to hinder the functions of the Executive Branch.
The appeals court rejected those arguments.
“At bottom, former President Trump's stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three branches,” the justices ruled.
They also dismissed as “irrational” Trump's claim that the Constitution only allows charges to be brought against a former president if he is first impeached and convicted by Congress.
Trump was impeached in the House twice while in office, but the Senate voted both times to acquit him. A majority of senators voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds requirement.
Smith in the D.C. election case is prosecuting Trump on four criminal counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by attempting to overturn the 2020 results and conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's victory on January 6, 2021.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges and dozens more in three other active criminal cases, which he says are part of a conspiracy by the Biden administration to harm him politically.
— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.