Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his federal criminal prosecution for allegedly conspiring to obstruct election certification three years ago.
Trump's lawyers made the request Monday, writing to the justices that they were preparing a petition for certiorari, or a full request for the high court to take up the case. They said they wanted the court to indefinitely delay the trial at a federal courthouse in Washington DC. At issue is whether Trump should have absolute immunity from criminal charges for acts he allegedly committed while in the White House.
Last week, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington Circuit flatly rejected Trump's request for blanket immunity.
“Former President Trump has become a Trump citizen, with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the ideologically diverse justices wrote in a unanimous, unsigned opinion.
“We cannot accept that the Office of the President places its former occupants above the law forever,” the D.C. Circuit judges wrote. This, they said, would “collapse our system of separate powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three powers.”
The three-judge panel gave Trump until Monday to take his case to the Supreme Court. What the judges do, and how quickly, could determine whether Trump faces trial before the November election in a case that accuses him of violating federal conspiracy laws to cling to power after losing the race of 2020 against Joe Biden.
Lawyers working for Special Counsel Jack Smith said in court documents that these plots culminated in violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, that injured more than 140 law enforcement officers and shook the foundations of American democracy.
Trump has pleaded not guilty and argued in and out of court that the matter amounted to “election interference” against the Republican nominee to return to the White House. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation, has denied under oath any interference by Biden and others currently in the White House.
The question of presidential immunity in criminal cases has never arisen before, as Trump is the first former president to face such charges.
He faces 91 counts, in four different jurisdictions, for allegations related to the 2020 election, his refusal to return highly classified documents to the FBI and for paperwork violations relating to secret payments to a movie star for adults.
Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court, justices appeared skeptical of Colorado's attempt to disqualify Trump from the state's primary election for allegedly participating in an insurrection. A decision in this case could come within a few weeks.