Court will expedite Trump’s immunity appeal in election interference case

A federal court on Wednesday granted special counsel Jack Smith’s request for an expedited appeal in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set several deadlines for prosecutors and the defense to file briefs laying out their positions on Trump’s argument that the case should be dismissed on presidential immunity grounds. No date for oral arguments has been set.

The decision to take up the appeal threatens to push back the trial’s start date, currently scheduled for March 4. The third of three briefs requested by the appeals court is due Jan. 2.

The appeal will be considered by Judge Karen Henderson, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and Judges J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both Biden appointees. The three-judge panel is the same group that granted the motion to expedite.

A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment. A Trump campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The court’s decision to take up the expedited appeal comes after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal election interference case, ruled that Trump’s presidential immunity claims did not shield him from the charges. Trump appealed that ruling.

Trump’s lawyers in October had filed several motions to dismiss the case, citing a series of constitutional grounds, including the First Amendment, double jeopardy and due process.

In an effort to prevent delays in the case, Smith filed a motion to expedite appeals court proceedings that he said “will avoid undue delay.”

Trump’s attorneys opposed the special counsel’s request for an expedited process which they said would impair Trump from fully developing and presenting his arguments.

“A rushed schedule, as the prosecution demands, would vitiate these constitutional rights and irreparably undermine public confidence in the judicial system,” they wrote in a filing Wednesday.

Chutkan on Wednesday paused all proceedings in the criminal case pending resolution of Trump’s appeal on immunity grounds.

Smith has also asked the Supreme Court to quickly step in on the immunity claim. The Supreme Court has asked Trump’s legal team to respond to that request by Dec. 20.

Trump’s first brief with the appeals court is due three days after he is expected to submit his opposition to Smith’s petition to the Supreme Court. The timeline means the Supreme Court could grant or deny Smith’s petition before the appeals court resolves the matter.

Trump faces four counts of criminal conduct related to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. after he lost the 2020 presidential election. He pleaded not guilty and has both publicly condemned the allegations and repeatedly pushed to postpone various legal challenges against him until after the 2024 election, arguing that earlier trial dates are tantamount to election interference.

Trump made a similar argument on social media Wednesday night after the circuit court’s decision, though he didn’t mention the appeals court.

Criticizing the special counsel, Trump said in a post on Truth Social that Smith “wants to RUSH,RUSH,RUSH to the Supreme Court on the important matter of Presidential Immunity, something which is so basic to America that it should be automatic.” He also claimed that Smith wanted to damage his candidacy against President Joe Biden.