Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to extend a delay in his trial for attempting to overturn the result of the 2020 US election, arguing he is immune from prosecution.
The former president’s lawyers have filed an emergency appeal asking the justices to pause a ruling made by a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, which rejected his claim of immunity and ruled the trial could proceed.
The ruling meant he could be prosecuted for actions he took while in the White House from January 2017 and in the run-up to 6 January 2021 when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol.
“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” Mr Trump’s lawyers wrote.
They argued that “conducting a months-long criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign” against President Joe Biden ahead of the election.
The filing effectively pauses what would be a landmark criminal trial of a former president while the nation’s highest court decides what to do.
The Supreme Court’s decision could determine whether the Republican, who is the overwhelming favourite to be nominated to run again, stands trial in the case before the election in November.
The case was brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, whose team has pushed for the trial to take place this year. Mr Trump has repeatedly sought to delay the case.
If he were to defeat Mr Biden and be elected president a second time, Mr Trump could use his federal powers to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.
The Supreme Court could reject the emergency appeal, which would enable proceedings to restart in Washington’s federal court, or it could extend the delay while it hears arguments on the issue of immunity.
Mr Trump’s lawyers indicated they would seek to prolong the delay by also asking the full bench of judges at the federal appeals court in Washington to weigh in and only after that would they file a formal appeal to the Supreme Court – which would delay the restart of trial preparations by weeks if not months.
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The case is one of four prosecutions Mr Trump faces as he campaigns to retake the White House.
He faces federal charges in Florida on claims he illegally retained classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
He is also charged in state court in Georgia with scheming to subvert the state’s 2020 election and in New York in connection with hush money payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels. He has denied any wrongdoing.