Supreme Court rejects Jack Smith’s request to fast-track decision on Trump presidential ‘immunity’

The US Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on Donald Trump’s “presidential immunity” defence until an appeals court reviews the case.

The refusal on Friday from the nation’s highest court follows a request from special counsel Jack Smith to make a swift and “definitive” ruling on whether the former president can claim “immunity” from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed while in office.

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the “immunity” defence on 9 January.

A federal grand jury indictment charges Mr Trump for his alleged attempts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, including his failure to stop a mob of his supporters from breaking into the US Capitol to stop the certification of the results on January 6.

The federal judge overseeing the case has rejected Mr Trump’s arguments, and Mr Trump has vowed to appeal.

The Supreme Court’s response tells the parties that the justices won’t get involved in the case, for now.

The justices did not cite a reason for the decision.

The question is among several that could be facing the high court involving Mr Trump’s growing legal problems, which include four criminal prosecutions and lawsuits that threaten his business and campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

His campaign has vowed to go to the Supreme Court to fight a Colorado ruling that bars him from appearing on the state’s 2024 ballots under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits candidates who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump’s attorneys told the Supreme Court to reject the special counsel’s request and accused prosecutors of trying to “bypass” their appeal.

His attorneys argued that the special counsel “identifies no compelling reason for the extraordinary haste he proposes.”

“This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy … whether a president may be criminally prosecuted for his official acts,” they wrote. “The ‘paramount public importance’ of that question … calls for it to be resolved in a cautious, deliberative manner – not at breakneck speed.”

The former president’s attorneys also suggested that the special counsel has a “partisan interest” to keep Mr Trump restrained by his criminal prosecutions during the 2024 election.

A filing from Mr Smith argued there remains public interest in the case for a “timely” resolution on the immunity question, as the charges that Mr Trump faces “are of the utmost gravity.”

“This case involves – for the first time in our nation’s history – criminal charges against a former president based on his actions while in office,” lawyers with Mr Smith’s office wrote.

“[Mr Trump] stands accused of serious crimes because the grand jury followed the facts and applied the law,” they added. “The government seeks this court’s resolution of the immunity claim so that those charges may be promptly resolved, whatever the result.”

But multiple delays in the federal election interference case — which is scheduled to go to trial in March 2024 — could prevent it from moving forward until after the presidential election. Should Mr Trump win the election, he has suggested he would order the US Department of Justice to shut it down.

If the appeals court rejects his immunity claim, the question could land right back at the Supreme Court within a matter of weeks.

But how quickly the appeals court makes a decision after hearing oral arguments in early January will determine how consequential the Supreme Court’s decision to turn away the special counsel’s request may prove to be to the case as the 2024 presidential election approaches.

The appeals court panel that will hear the “immunity” question includes two Joe Biden appointees and one appointee of George HW Bush.