The Supreme Court declined prosecutors’ request to intervene in the dispute over former President Donald Trump’s presidential immunity Friday, a decision that could derail a planned March trial on charges tied to Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Friday’s unexplained order leaves the case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has scheduled oral arguments next month on Trump’s argument that his presidency shields him from charges connected to his effort to subvert the 2020 result.
Special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith asked the justices to intervene earlier this month, arguing that allowing Trump’s appeal to play out would put the March trial date at risk and allow Trump to use the court process to delay justice.
Smith has brought four charges against Trump, alleging that he orchestrated a broad effort to overturn the result, including efforts to stop vote counting, putting forth false slates of presidential electors and encouraging then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the Electoral College votes of states Trump lost.
Throughout the litigation Trump has sought to delay the trial until after the 2024 election, accusing Smith and the Biden administration of “election interference” for bringing the case. Trump has made the prosecution a major part of his reelection bid and has promised retribution on his perceived enemies.
The Justice Department was investigating Trump prior to his reelection bid. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed Smith after Trump announced his 2024 campaign.
The appeal, which heads to a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit on Jan. 9, centers on Trump’s claim that he cannot be prosecuted for acts that fell within his duties as president, or acts that the Senate acquitted him for in the February 2021 impeachment trial after he left office.