Donald Trump urges federal appeals court to grant him immunity from criminal prosecution in election subversion case

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Devan Cole, CNN

CNN  — 

Donald Trump urged a federal appeals court to throw out the federal election subversion criminal case in Washington, DC, again arguing in a filing late Saturday that he is protected under presidential immunity.

Trump wants the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower-court ruling rejecting his claims of immunity in special counsel Jack Smith’s election subversion case. The appeals panel is weighing Trump’s request, which the Supreme Court on Friday refused to take up on an expedited basis, as Smith requested.

The filing reiterates what the former president’s lawyers have repeatedly asserted – that Trump was working in his official capacity as president to “ensure election integrity” when he allegedly undermined the 2020 election results and therefore has immunity, and that his indictment is unconstitutional because presidents cannot be criminally prosecuted for “official acts” unless they are impeached and convicted by the Senate.

“The Constitution establishes a powerful structural check to prevent political factions from abusing the formidable threat of criminal prosecution to disable the President and attack their political enemies,” Trump’s attorneys wrote Saturday.

“Before any single prosecutor can ask a court to sit in judgment of the President’s conduct, Congress must have approved of it by impeaching and convicting the President,” they wrote. “That did not happen here, and so President Trump has absolute immunity.”

The former president has been attempting to delay his March 4 trial in the case, with his fight over the immunity claim underscoring those efforts.

The appeals court has expedited its consideration of his appeal, and it’s set to hear oral arguments in the matter on January 9. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing his criminal case, temporarily paused all procedural deadlines in the case while the appeal plays out.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request from Smith for the justices to immediately hear the case before the DC Circuit had a chance to weigh in. Both sides will have the option of appealing the eventual ruling from the appeals court back up to the highest court.

Trump’s team asked the appeals court earlier this month to examine the immunity ruling issued by Chutkan. Chutkan rejected Trump’s immunity claims, writing in an opinion that his “four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”

Chutkan had also dismissed arguments from Trump’s attorneys that the criminal indictment should be thrown out because he was working to “ensure election integrity” as part of his official capacity as president when he allegedly undermined the 2020 election results, and therefore is protected under presidential immunity. Defense attorneys reiterated those arguments Saturday.

Trump’s lawyers said Saturday that Chutkan “missed what the Founders recognized: That punishment of the President is irreducibly political and so belongs primarily to the branch most politically accountable—Congress and, ultimately, the Senate.”

They also warned that, in their view, Trump’s indictment “threatens to launch cycles of recrimination and politically motivated prosecution that will plague our Nation for many decades to come.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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