Trump appeals ruling rejecting immunity claim as window narrows
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is appealing a ruling that found he is not immune from criminal prosecution as he runs out of opportunities to delay or even derail an upcoming trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Lawyers for the 2024 Republican presidential primary frontrunner filed a notice of appeal Thursday indicating that they will challenge U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision rejecting Trump’s bid to dismiss the case headed to trial in Washington, D.C., in March.
The one-page filing, the first step in a process that could potentially reach the Supreme Court in the months ahead, was accompanied by a request from the Trump team to freeze deadlines in the case while the appeals court considers the matter.
“The filing of President Trump’s notice of appeal has deprived this Court of jurisdiction over this case in its entirety pending resolution of the appeal,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Therefore, a stay of all further proceedings is mandatory and automatic.”
In a separate statement, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said one of Trump’s “most sacred obligations and responsibilities as President was to ensure that the election process was conducted in a way that complied with the law, including investigating and challenging election fraud and irregularities.”
He added that Trump “has absolute immunity from prosecution, and litigation, for carrying out his sworn and solemn duties as President.”
The appeal had been expected given that Trump’s lawyers had earlier signaled their plans to pursue all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, what they say is a legally untested question of a former president’s immunity from prosecution. It’s part of a broader strategy by him and his lawyers to try to postpone the criminal cases against him until after next year’s presidential election, averting trials that could unfold in the heat of the presidential campaign.
The appeals court is expected to schedule dates for written briefs and oral arguments, though it’s not clear when those would be.
The argument that Trump is immune from prosecution for actions taken within his role as president has for months been seen as perhaps the most weighty and legally consequential objection to the case made by the Trump lawyers ahead of trial. No former president has ever been prosecuted before, a lack of historical precedent Trump’s team has seized on in trying to get the indictment tossed out.
Now that the immunity argument has already been rejected by Chutkan, Trump’s best hope at delaying the trial appears to be convincing the D.C. appeals court or ultimately the Supreme Court to pause the case while the higher courts consider his prosecutorial immunity claim.
However, the rejection last week by a three-judge panel of the appeals court of Trump’s sweeping claims of immunity in civil cases accusing him of inciting the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, suggest he likely faces an uphill battle. While it’s possible the Supreme Court may feel compelled to step in to address an unprecedented legal question, there’s also no guarantee the justices will take the case up at this stage.