Chief Justice John Roberts is giving prosecutors a week to respond to former President Donald Trump’s request to keep his federal criminal election-subversion trial on hold while he tries to persuade the Supreme Court to scuttle it entirely on the grounds of presidential immunity.
A brief docket entry from the court Tuesday morning said special counsel Jack Smith has until next Tuesday at 5 p.m. to address the emergency application Trump’s lawyers filed at the high court Monday.
Last week, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Washington unanimously rejected Trump’s sweeping immunity claim. However, the judges agreed not to return the case to a lower court for trial until the Supreme Court acts on Trump’s request for emergency relief.
Smith has already urged the courts to resolve the immunity dispute quickly so that Trump’s Washington, D.C. trial, originally set for March 4, can begin later this year.
In December, the special counsel asked the Supreme Court to take up the immunity issue even before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed it, in order to reach an expedited conclusion, but the justices denied the attempt.
“This Court’s immediate review of that question is the only way to achieve its timely and definitive resolution,” Smith wrote in the December filing. “The Nation has a compelling interest in a decision on [Trump’s] claim of immunity from these charges — and if they are to be tried, a resolution by conviction or acquittal, without undue delay.”
Smith is expected to oppose Trump’s request to keep the proceedings in the trial court on hold while Trump pursues further relief from both the Supreme Court and the full, 11-judge bench of the D.C. Circuit. He is hoping those courts rule that former presidents are immune from prosecution on conduct arguably related to the presidency unless they have been impeached and convicted by Congress.
Smith does not have to wait until next Tuesday to respond to Trump’s latest high court filing, which was widely anticipated and largely repeats arguments his attorneys have raised previously.