Trump’s Immunity Claims Rejected, Likely Heading To Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — A federal appellate court has rejected Donald Trump’s argument that his attempts to overturn the 2020 election he lost and which led to the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were “official” acts and therefore immune from prosecution, likely setting up an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The former president had asked the court to overturn District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling in December that Trump’s actions were not part of his duties as president and that holding that office did not give him a “get out of out jail free” card.

A panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held oral arguments in the case on Jan. 9, during which all three judges appeared skeptical of Trump’s view that former presidents can never be charged with a crime unless they have been impeached and removed from office for the same or similar charges.

Trump has previously said he would appeal his issues to the Supreme Court, where he has said he hopes the conservative majority, particularly the three justices he appointed, would rule in his favor. He could also first ask the Court of Appeals to hear it “en banc,” that is, with all the judges rather than just three.

The Supreme Court previously 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 that date appears likely to slip because of Trump’s appeal, which had the effect of freezing the case.

Should Trump win the White House again and the case remains unfinished, he would have the authority to order the Department of Justice to drop all federal charges against him — a prospect that appears to be behind Trump’s efforts to delay the trial as much as possible.

Trump is facing a second federal prosecution in South Florida for his refusal to turn over secret documents he took with him from the White House to his Palm Beach country club. In addition, he is under indictment in Georgia for his attempt to overturn his election loss in that state and in New York for falsifying business records, which prosecutors say he did to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star.

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