WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump has taken his claim of “total immunity” from criminal prosecution for his coup attempt to the US Supreme Court, thereby keeping his case from moving toward trial until the high court issues a ruling.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 6 unanimously upheld the trial court’s decision that Trump was not immune from prosecution for his actions leading up to and on the January 6, 2021, assault of the Capitol he incited to block the transfer of presidential power after he lost the 2020 election. Appellate judges told the former president he had until February 12 to file a request for a stay with the Supreme Court, which would further freeze his case until justices make a decision to take it on or not.
Trump argued to both US District Judge Tanya Chutkan and a three-judge panel of the appellate court that any and all of the actions a president takes in office are immune from prosecution and that the only way a former president can be prosecuted is if they were first impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate.
Both Chutkan and the appellate judges disagreed.
“Former President Trump’s claimed immunity would have us extend the framework for presidential civil immunity to criminal cases and decide for the first time that a former president is categorically immune from federal criminal prosecution for any act conceivably within the outer perimeter of his executive responsibility,” the appeals judges wrote.
Trump has indicated he would also ask the Supreme Court to review the substance of the appellate court ruling. If a majority of the justices agreed to overturn the appeals court, it would likely end the felony, four-count election subversion case against him.
Trump has previously said he hopes the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, particularly the three justices he appointed, will rule in his favor in his criminal cases.
In December, the Supreme Court declined to review the immunity question at the request of special counsel Jack Smith, who had asked justices to step in and decide the matter immediately.
Chutkan had slated Trump’s trial on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding to start in early March, but earlier this month said the case could not move forward until Trump’s appeal was settled.
Trump, though, will continue to face three other criminal prosecutions. A separate Georgia state indictment charges him with trying to overturn the election in that state. A second federal indictment is based on his refusal to turn over secret documents he took with him to his South Florida country club after leaving the White House, while a New York state indictment accuses him of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn actor just ahead of the 2016 election.
Despite the 91 felony charges across the four indictments, Trump is the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee for the November election.