Trump asks federal appeals court to toss indictment accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election in late-night filing claiming he was protected under presidential immunity

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Former president Donald Trump has urged a federal appeals court to grant him immunity from criminal prosecution in a 2020 election subversion case 
  • The late-night court filing argues  ‘the judicial branch cannot sit in judgment over a president’s official acts’
  • Special Counsel Jack Smith’s attempt to expedite to the Supreme Court was rejected on Friday

Donald Trump has petitioned an appeals court in Washington to dismiss a federal indictment accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, in his latest attempt to avoid prosecution.  

The former president’s lawyers made a late-night court filing on Saturday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, claiming that he is immune to charges because they stem from actions he took while serving in the White House.

It is the latest development in an ongoing and pivotal legal dispute between Trump and special counsel Jack Smith over election interference. 

The 77-year-old Republican argued that the case should be dismissed because former presidents cannot face criminal charges for conduct related to their official responsibilities. 

In a 55-page briefing to the court, Trump’s lawyer John D. Sauer suggested that under the Constitution, judges are not able to hold the president accountable for any acts undertaken while in office.

‘Under our system of separated powers, the judicial branch cannot sit in judgment over a president’s official acts. That doctrine is not controversial,’ Sauer wrote.

Donald Trump’s attorney made a late-night filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Saturday calling for the federal indictment accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election to be dismissed

Trump has been in a long-running battle with Special Counsel Jack Smith (pictured) over election interference and if the former president had immunity when he called on his supporters to rally against Joe Biden's 2020 election victory

Trump has been in a long-running battle with Special Counsel Jack Smith (pictured) over election interference and if the former president had immunity when he called on his supporters to rally against Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory

Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 after he claimed the election was stolen

Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 after he claimed the election was stolen

The filing states what the former president’s lawyers have repeatedly asserted – that Trump had been working in his official capacity as president to ‘ensure election integrity’.

‘The unbroken tradition of not exercising the supposed formidable power of criminally prosecuting a president for official acts — despite ample motive and opportunity to do so, over centuries — implies that the power does not exist,’ Sauer wrote. 

His lawyers argued that the indictment was unconstitutional and that Trump can only be criminally prosecuted for ‘official acts’ if he is 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 in the Saturday filing.

‘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 argued. 

‘That did not happen here, and so President Trump has absolute immunity.’

The trial judge in the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, had just weeks ago said the former president did not have ‘a lifelong ”get-out-of-jail-free” pass.’

Judge Chutkan argued that despite his former status as president, Trump could still be  ‘subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office.’

The appeals court has expedited the consideration of Trump’s appeal and will hear oral arguments on January 9, days before the Iowa Caucuses.

Trump's lawyers  filed a 55-page briefing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit claiming presidents cannot face criminal charges for conduct related to their official responsibilities

Trump’s lawyers  filed a 55-page briefing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit claiming presidents cannot face criminal charges for conduct related to their official responsibilities

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan (pictured) had just weeks ago said the former president did not have 'a lifelong ''get-out-of-jail-free'' pass'

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan (pictured) had just weeks ago said the former president did not have ‘a lifelong ”get-out-of-jail-free” pass’

Trump's lawyer John D. Sauer suggested that under the Constitution judges are not able to hold the president accountable for any acts undertaken while in office

Trump’s lawyer John D. Sauer suggested that under the Constitution judges are not able to hold the president accountable for any acts undertaken while in office

Prosecutors have accused Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, of attempting to obstruct Congress and defraud the U.S. government through schemes to reverse Democratic President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

They say Trump broke the law by trying to push state lawmakers to make decisions that would keep him in power including pressuring the Justice Department to validate claims election fraud occurred in the 2020 contest.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected an attempt from Smith to have them immediately hear the case before the DC Court had a chance to make a ruling.

Trump branded Smith’s attempt to expedite the case as a ‘desperate attempt to short circuit our Great Constitution.’ 

‘The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected Deranged Jack Smith’s desperate attempt to short circuit our Great Constitution,’ he said on Truth Social. 

‘Crooked Joe Biden and his henchmen waited three years to bring this sham case, and now they have tried and failed to rush this Witch Hunt through the courts. 

‘Of course I am entitled to Presidential Immunity. I was President, it was my right and duty to investigate, and speak on, the rigged and stolen 2020 Presidential Election.’

The decision was a victory for the Republican presidential frontrunner and increases the chances it will delay his federal election interference trial which is slated to start on March 4.

Now Trump’s legal troubles could get pushed closer to or even after the November 5 general elections, where he his vying for a rematch with 81-year-old Joe Biden. 

If Trump is reelected to the White House on November 5 for a second term, he could seek to pardon himself of any federal crimes ¿ although constitutional scholars are split on whether he would have the authority

If Trump is reelected to the White House on November 5 for a second term, he could seek to pardon himself of any federal crimes – although constitutional scholars are split on whether he would have the authority 

In a post to his Truth Social platform, the former president said Smith's attempts to get the case heard by the Supreme Court before the DC Circuit Court ruled was a 'desperate attempt to short circuit our Great Constitution'

In a post to his Truth Social platform, the former president said Smith’s attempts to get the case heard by the Supreme Court before the DC Circuit Court ruled was a ‘desperate attempt to short circuit our Great Constitution’

The justices, three of whom Trump appointed, are also set to take up the Colorado case of whether he can be kicked off the ballot for being an ‘insurrectionist’. 

If Trump is reelected to the White House on November 5 for a second term, he could seek to pardon himself of any federal crimes – although constitutional scholars are split on whether he would have the authority.

Trump is still having to deal with a thicket of lawsuits.

The Stormy Daniels case in New York, where Trump is charged with falsifying business records relating to the $130,000 payoff of porn star Stormy Daniels, is set to go to trial March 25. 

The Trump case relating to an effort to overturn the election continues to move ahead in Georgia, and he also has been charged with conspiring to conceal national security documents at Mar-a-Lago, in a Florida trial that is running months behind schedule.

If Trump is reelected to the White House on November 5, he could seek to pardon himself of any federal crimes – although constitutional scholars are split on whether he would have the authority. 

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