Trump Asks Supreme Court to Immunize Him From Jan. 6 Charges

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump urged the US Supreme Court to declare him immune from criminal prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election results, pressing arguments aimed at avoiding trial before voters go to the polls in November.

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In a 52-page filing, Trump’s lawyers contended he can’t be charged because he was acting in his official capacity as president during the lead-up to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol assault.

“A denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future president with de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn him to years of post-office trauma at the hands of political opponents,” Trump’s legal team argued.

With the arguments set for April 25, the clash is as much about timing as substance. Special Counsel Jack Smith needs a quick, definitive victory to have any hope of putting Trump on trial this year in Washington. The Supreme Court, which has three Trump-appointed members, last month ordered the prosecution kept on hold until the justices rule.

Trump has been pushing to delay any trial until after the election as the presidential campaign kicks into high gear. If Trump becomes president before a resolution, he could take the extraordinary step of ordering the Justice Department to drop the case, one of the four criminal prosecutions he now faces.

More than half of voters in seven swing states say they wouldn’t vote for Trump if he were convicted of a crime, according to a recent Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll.

A federal appeals court said in a 3-0 ruling that Trump could be prosecuted for allegedly trying to remain in power illegally. The panel said Trump’s claim of immunity would give him “unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results.”

Although Trump’s brief focused primarily on arguments that would mean dismissal of the four-count indictment, his lawyers also sketched out narrower approaches that would send the case back to the appeals court for further proceedings. That step would almost certainly preclude a trial before November.

Under one such approach, the high court could decide that criminal immunity exists but stop short of deciding how it applied to the Trump indictment.

“If the court determines that immunity exists but requires fact-based application, the court should follow its standard practice and remand to the lower courts to apply that doctrine in the first instance,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

The Supreme Court hinted it might be interested in a limited ruling when it said last month it would hear the case. The court said it would consider “whether and if so to what extent” former presidents are entitled to criminal immunity.

The Supreme Court has never said whether a former president is immune from criminal charges for actions taken while in office. The court ruled in 1982 that, with regard to civil suits, presidents have complete immunity for actions taken within the “outer perimeter” of their official duties.

The case is Trump v. United States, 23A745.

(Updates with Trump’s narrower arguments starting in eighth paragraph.)

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