2020 election case: US Supreme Court to rule on Trump criminal immunity.

Washington, Feb. 28  As Trump seeks to reclaim the presidency, the U.S. Supreme Court again intervened in the election on Wednesday to decide his claim of immunity from prosecution on special counsel charges related to his 2020 election loss.

The justices halted Special Counsel Jack Smith's criminal case and will consider a lower court's rejection of Trump's claim of immunity because he was president when he tried to overturn President Joe Biden's electoral victory. Trump's attorneys asked a stay of the order, threatening catastrophic ramifications for the president without immunity.

On Feb. 6, the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump's immunity claim 3-0, rejecting his request for "unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results." Trump, the only former president to be legally indicted, is the Republican frontrunner to confront Biden on Nov. 5.

Trump faced four federal election subversion charges from Special Counsel Jack Smith in August 2023. Trump's immunity claim postponed the March 4 trial date, with no new date established. He faces three more criminal trials. Trump has pled not guilty in all of them, claiming political motives. His attorneys petitioned the Supreme Court Feb. 12.

A months-long criminal prosecution would "radically disrupt" Trump's capacity to campaign against Biden, they told the Supreme Court. If Trump's prosecution is authorized, future presidents might face politicized charges, extortion, blackmail, and more. Smith accused Trump of plotting to defraud the US, block legislative certification of Biden's electoral victory, and violate Americans' voting rights.

Trump and his backers falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen and planned to deploy fake electors to prevent legislative certification of Biden's victory. Trump also pressured Vice President Mike Pence to block certification. Trump supporters attacked the Capitol to stop certification.

Trump may halt the prosecution or pardon himself for federal charges if he wins again. Trump filed a motion to dismiss the charges in October, claiming presidential immunity. On Dec. 1, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied that allegation, sparking Trump's D.C. Circuit appeal.

At a January hearing, one of Trump's lawyers told the three D.C. Circuit judges that a president cannot be criminally charged unless he is impeached and convicted in Congress. The three-judge panel unanimously rejected Trump's immunity claim, writing: "We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter."

The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump-appointed justices. Another Trump lawsuit with November election ramifications was considered by the justices on Feb. 8. The justice questioned Colorado's top court's ruling that barred Trump from the Republican primary ballot based on the 14th Amendment after finding he engaged in an insurrection related to his supporters' Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

From 2017 until 2021, Trump claimed broad immunity while in office and since leaving. Smith was appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2022 to examine Trump's after-2020 election conduct and classified document retention after leaving the White House in 2021. Smith charged Trump on both subjects.

Smith is prosecuting two of Trump's four criminal cases: one in a Georgia state court over his 2020 defeat and one in a New York state court about hush money paid to a porn actress. In 2020, the Supreme Court rejected Trump's claim that he was exempt from a state criminal subpoena while president. In a related case, the judges will rule if a Capitol assault suspect may be prosecuted with impeding congressional certification of 2020 election results. That lawsuit may affect Trump since Smith presented two obstruction allegations.

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