Former President Donald Trump is urging a federal appeals court to dismiss the federal election subversion criminal case against him in Washington, DC. In a filing late Saturday, Trump’s legal team reiterated the claim that he is protected under presidential immunity. The appeal, currently under consideration by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, seeks to overturn a lower-court ruling that rejected Trump’s immunity assertions in the election subversion case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. The Supreme Court, however, refused to expedite the case as requested by Smith.
In the filing, Trump’s lawyers maintained that the former president, in his official capacity, was working to “ensure election integrity” during the alleged undermining of the 2020 election results. They argue that this official duty grants him immunity and that his indictment is unconstitutional, asserting that presidents cannot face criminal prosecution for “official acts” unless impeached and convicted by the Senate. Trump’s attorneys emphasized the structural checks established by the Constitution to prevent the abuse of criminal prosecution as a tool to disable the president and target political enemies.
“The Constitution establishes a powerful structural check to prevent political factions from abusing the formidable threat of criminal prosecution to disable the President and attack their political enemies,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the filing. “Before any single prosecutor can ask a court to sit in judgment of the President’s conduct, Congress must have approved of it by impeaching and convicting the President. That did not happen here, and so President Trump has absolute immunity.”
The former president has sought to delay his March 4 trial, with the fight over the immunity claim being a focal point of these efforts. The appeals court has expedited its consideration of Trump’s appeal and is scheduled to hear oral arguments on January 9. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, overseeing the criminal case, has temporarily halted all procedural deadlines pending the outcome of the appeal.
The Supreme Court declined Smith’s request for an immediate hearing, allowing the DC Circuit to assess the case first. Both parties will retain the option to appeal the eventual ruling from the appeals court to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s legal team had previously requested the appeals court to review the immunity ruling issued by Judge Chutkan. Chutkan had rejected Trump’s immunity claims, asserting in an opinion that his service as Commander in Chief did not grant him immunity from criminal accountability. The judge dismissed arguments that Trump’s actions were part of his official capacity as president, emphasizing that such actions do not exempt him from criminal charges. Trump’s lawyers reiterated these arguments in the recent filing, contending that Chutkan overlooked the Founders’ recognition that the punishment of the president is inherently political and belongs primarily to the politically accountable branch, Congress, and ultimately, the Senate.
In their filing, Trump’s legal team expressed concern about the potential repercussions of the indictment, warning that it “threatens to launch cycles of recrimination and politically motivated prosecution that will plague our Nation for many decades to come.” The assertion implies that Trump’s case could set a precedent affecting future presidents and the political landscape of the country. The legal battle continues, with the upcoming oral arguments serving as a critical juncture in determining the trajectory of the federal election subversion case against Donald Trump.