Updated Dec 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Jack Smith asks Supreme Court to weigh Trump's immunity argument

 Special Counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment including four felony counts against former U.S. President Donald Trump on August 1, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Special Counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment against former President Trump on Aug. 1 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court said Monday that it would consider special counsel Jack Smith's request to rule quickly on whether presidential immunity protects former President Trump from prosecution in the federal 2020 election interference case.

Why it matters: It would be the first time that the high court would have weighed in on part of the legal proceedings involving the former president and Republican presidential frontrunner.

Driving the news: "This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office," Smith wrote in the Monday filing.

  • Smith added that it "is of imperative public importance" for the Court to rule on Trump's claims of immunity "and that respondent's trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected."
  • The Supreme Court agreed Monday to expedite consideration of Smith's request to consider whether Trump is immune, and gave Trump's legal team until Dec. 20 to file a response.

State of play: Trump's legal team last week requested a stay on all court proceedings in the 2020 election case, which is currently scheduled to go to trial on March 4.

  • Trump's lawyers argue that he has presidential immunity from the charges.
  • The former president's request for a stay came after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, rejected Trump's arguments that he has immunity from the indictment.

What they're saying: A Trump spokesperson accused Smith in a statement of trying for "a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the appellate process."

  • "As President Trump has said over and over again, this prosecution is completely politically motivated," the spokesperson said.
  • "President Trump will continue to fight for Justice and oppose these authoritarian tactics."

Zoom in: Prosecutors in their filing cite the 1974 U.S. v. Nixon case, when the Supreme Court ruled that former President Nixon was required to turn over tape recordings during the Watergate scandal, and that he was not protected by "executive privilege."

What to watch: The special counsel, in a rare move, is seeking to bypass the federal appeals court and urge the high court to rule quickly on Trump's claims.

  • "Respondent's appeal of the ruling rejecting his immunity and related claims, however, suspends the trial of the charges against him, scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024," per the filing.

Go deeper: Federal prosecutors urge judge to keep March 4 trial in Trump election case

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details.

Go deeper