Special counsel urges Supreme Court to deny Trump’s request for delay in immunity case

Originally Published: 14 FEB 24 18:12 ET
Updated: 14 FEB 24 20:14 ET

(CNN) — Special counsel Jack Smith pressed the Supreme Court on Wednesday to let stand a lower court ruling that denied former President Donald Trump immunity from prosecution, urging the justices to allow the trial in his election subversion case to begin quickly.

“The charged crimes strike at the heart of our democracy,” Smith told the Supreme Court.

“A president’s alleged criminal scheme to overturn an election and thwart the peaceful transfer of power to his successor should be the last place to recognize a novel form of absolute immunity from federal criminal law,” the special counsel added.

Smith’s filing was a response to an emergency request to the Supreme Court that Trump made Monday, seeking to pause proceedings so he could appeal a DC Circuit decision that denied him the ability to claim presidential immunity. Trump has argued that the “presidency as we know it will cease to exist” if the lower court’s ruling was allowed to stand. Smith’s response came days before it was due, underscoring the special counsel’s desire to rapidly move to trial.

Smith argued Trump cannot meet the standard required to block the lower court’s ruling.

“Delay in the resolution of these charges threatens to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict,” Smith wrote.

Smith asked that if the court orders a delay that it consider the request an appeal and set the case for expedited briefing and argument. In that circumstance, Smith asked that the arguments take place next month.

The special counsel’s response drew heavily on history, quoting from Alexander Hamilton and other founding-era leaders, to establish the idea that presidents should be held accountable for their conduct. He argued that Trump was unable to “point to any Founding Era suggestion of such absolute immunity,” which he said underscored “how remote the possibility is that this court will agree with his unprecedented legal position.”

A unanimous opinion from the DC Circuit last week allowed Trump to face charges for actions he took to subvert the 2020 election and brushed aside his claims that former presidents are immune from such prosecution. Trump on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block that decision so he could appeal it. He has argued that denying immunity would open future presidents up to criminal prosecution as soon as they leave office.

The timing of the Supreme Court’s handling of Trump’s request is critical. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, would benefit from delaying his trial until after the November election. Smith, on the other hand, is eager to not let that happen.

Earlier Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts gave Smith until February 20 to respond to Trump’s emergency request. Trump is now expected to file a reply to Smith and the justices will decide how to proceed in short order – likely within a few days.

“The public interest in a prompt trial is at its zenith where, as here, a former president is charged with conspiring to subvert the electoral process so that he could remain in office,” Smith told the court.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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