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Former US president Donald Trump. Alamy Stock Photo
6 january

US Supreme Court sets date to hear Donald Trump's presidential immunity claim

A ruling is expected by the end of the court’s current term in June or early July.

THE US SUPREME Court will hear Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal prosecution as a former president on 25 April. 

Trump, 77, who is all-but-certain to be the Republican presidential nominee for the upcoming election, had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington this week for conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden.

But the proceedings have been frozen as his presidential immunity claim wound its way through the courts.

Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the election conspiracy case against Trump in August and had been pushing hard for the March start date for his trial.

Lawyers for the former president have sought repeatedly to delay the trial until after the November presidential election, when Trump could potentially have all of the federal cases against him dropped if he wins.

Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, saying at the time it would schedule oral arguments for the week of 22 April.

In agreeing to hear the immunity case, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, which includes three justices nominated by Trump himself, said it was not “expressing a view on the merits” of a lower court’s ruling that rejected his immunity claim.

It said it would address the question of whether a former president has “immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

A ruling is expected by the end of the court’s current term in June or early July.

The question of whether an ex-president is immune from prosecution is an untested one in American jurisprudence because until Trump, a former president had never been charged with a crime.

The Supreme Court has historically been loath to get involved in political questions, but it is taking center stage in this year’s White House race.

On Monday, the court removed a potential hurdle to Trump’s bid to recapture the White House, unanimously dismissing a state court ruling that could have barred him from the ballot.

The question before the nine justices was whether Trump was ineligible to appear on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Colorado because he engaged in an insurrection – the 6 January 2021, assault on the US Capitol by his supporters.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court stated: “This case raises the question whether the States, in addition to Congress, may also enforce Section 3.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.”

The nine-judge court said that responsibility for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates “rests with Congress and not the States”.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection but was acquitted thanks to Republican support in the Senate.

He is scheduled to go on trial in New York on 25 March on charges of covering up hush money payments to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

Among other cases, Trump also faces federal charges in Florida of refusing to give up top secret documents after leaving the White House.

With reporting from © AFP 2024

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