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Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene over claim of absolute immunity

Protesters for and against former President Donald Trump demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.  (KENNY HOLSTON)
By Adam Liptak </p><p>and Abbie VanSickle New York Times

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Monday to pause an appeals court’s ruling rejecting his claim that he is absolutely immune from criminal charges based on his attempts to subvert the 2020 election.

Unless the justices issue a stay while they consider whether to hear his promised appeal, proceedings in the criminal trial, which have been on hold, will resume.

The filing was Trump’s last-ditch effort to press his claim of total immunity, which has been rejected by two lower courts. The Supreme Court is now poised to determine whether and how fast his federal trial on charges that he tried to subvert the 2020 election will proceed. Unless the justices move quickly, the trial could be pushed into the heart of the 2024 campaign, or even past the election.

Trump’s filing came after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously rejected Trump’s argument that he may not be prosecuted for actions he took while in office.

Trump’s lawyers urged the justices to put that ruling on hold and then to move forward at a deliberate pace.

The new filing said the panel and the trial judge had gone astray in rejecting Trump’s arguments.

“This is a stunning breach of precedent and historical norms,” Trump’s application said. “In 234 years of American history, no president was ever prosecuted for his official acts. Nor should they be.”

The trial had been set to start March 4, but Judge Tanya Chutkan has removed it from her calendar and it is not clear when it will be rescheduled.

The question now is whether the Supreme Court will want the last word.

It has several options. It could deny a stay, which would restart the trial.

It could deny a petition seeking review, which would effectively reject Trump’s immunity argument and let the appeals court’s ruling stand.

It could hear his appeal on a fast track, as it is doing in a separate case on Trump’s eligibility to hold office.

Or it could hear the case on the usual schedule, which would most likely delay any trial past the election.