Updated Dec 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court won't weigh in now on Trump's immunity claims in 2020 election case

Former President Trump speaks at a campaign event at the Hyatt Hotel on Dec. 13 in Coralville, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected special counsel Jack Smith's request to immediately fast-track consideration of whether former President Trump is immune from prosecution in the federal 2020 election interference case.

Why it matters: The high court's decision raises the possibility that his federal 2020 election trial stretches beyond the currently scheduled March 4 start date.

Driving the news: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will now first consider the immunity question, with oral arguments slated to begin on Jan. 9.

  • The Supreme Court could then decide whether it will take up the case after the federal appeals court issues a ruling.

Catch up quick: Smith in a request earlier this month asked the high court to rule quickly on whether Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner, is "absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office," per the filing.

  • Trump's legal team has made the claim central to its defense. It requested a stay on proceedings after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, rejected arguments that he had immunity from the indictment.
  • The case's proceedings have been paused while the appeal plays out.

Smith in his request sought to bypass what would likely be a lengthy federal appeals court process as it weighed the claim.

  • "This is an effort to keep that trial date as much as reasonably possible with existing legal mechanisms," Derek Muller, a University of Notre Dame law school professor, told Axios after Smith's request.

The big picture: Trump and prosecutors have sparred over the timing of his four criminal trials, some of which have been scheduled for next year.

  • Smith argued in his filing that it was of "imperative public importance that respondent's claims of immunity be resolved by this court and that respondent's trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected."

Also pending before the justices is Trump's appeal of a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court, which determined that the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause disqualifies the former president from appearing on the state's ballots in next year's election.

  • The divided court found that Trump's actions surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and his efforts to overturn the election amounted to him inciting violence to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and disqualified him from holding public office again.

Go deeper: Trump's 2024 collision: Court dates disrupt his campaign calendar

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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