US Supreme Court gives special counsel deadline in Trump immunity fight

By Thomson Reuters Feb 13, 2024 | 4:06 PM

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the special counsel prosecuting Donald Trump on criminal charges of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to respond by Feb. 20 to the former president’s bid to freeze a judicial decision rejecting his immunity claim.

The justices in a brief order told Special Counsel Jack Smith to file a response to Trump’s request by next Tuesday at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT). Smith could file his response sooner. He previously asked the justices to resolve Trump’s immunity claim before a lower appeals court had weighed in – a request they denied.

Trump’s lawyers on Monday asked the justices to temporarily block a decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejecting his claim of presidential immunity from prosecution, pending his bid for the full slate of D.C. Circuit judges to reconsider the case, and, if necessary, a Supreme Court appeal.

The requests risk further delaying Trump’s criminal trial on four criminal counts. A March 4 trial date in federal court in Washington was postponed, with no new date yet set. Trump has pleaded not guilty and has sought to portray the case as politically motivated.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden, who defeated him in 2020, in the Nov. 5 U.S. election. Slowing the case could be to Trump’s benefit.

In their filing to the Supreme Court, Trump’s lawyers said a months-long criminal trial of Trump during “at the height of election season will radically disrupt” his ability to campaign against Biden. They painted a dark picture of what they said would befall future presidents if Trump’s prosecution is permitted to move forward, warning of partisan prosecutions, extortion, blackmail and more.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in Naples, Florida; Editing by Will Dunham)