Judge pauses Trump D.C. election case pending appeal, puts trial date in question

Special Prosecutor Jack Smith (L), and Former President Donald Trump.

Getty Images | Reuters

A federal judge on Wednesday paused Donald Trump‘s election interference case while the former president appeals her refusal to toss criminal charges he faces on presidential immunity grounds.

The ruling could delay the start of Trump’s trial, which is currently scheduled to begin in early March.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, in her order in Washington, D.C., federal court, wrote that Trump’s pending appeal “automatically stays any further proceedings that would move this case towards trial or impose additional burdens of litigation” on him.

Chutkan wrote that if she gets the case back following the appeal, she will decide whether to “retain or continue the dates of any still-future deadlines and proceedings.”

That includes Trump’s March 4 trial start date.

Chutkan added that her ruling does not suspend a gag order on Trump, or other measures she imposed to “safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”

The federal appeals court in Washington last week largely upheld the gag order, though it narrowed some of the restrictions on Trump’s speech.

Trump is charged with conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. He has pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment.

Trump this month asked the appeals court to overturn Chutkan’s rejection of his claim the U.S. Constitution granted Trump absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions that occurred while he was president.

Chutkan in her ruling wrote that being president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”

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This week, Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump, sought to fast track the appeals process by asking the Supreme Court to immediately take the case and hear arguments on Trump’s presidential immunity claim.

“It is of imperative public importance” that the immunity claims be resolved and that the trial “proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected,” Smith wrote in his application to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court chooses which cases it will hear.

Trump’s lawyers have opposed Smith’s bid to take the case out of the federal circuit court of appeals in D.C. before that court rules on the issue of immunity.

Trump’s lawyers argue in numerous civil and criminal cases that he is shielded from liability because he was president. But that argument has been rejected in multiple courts.

Earlier Wednesday, a New York federal appeals court rejected Trump’s arguments that he was protected by presidential immunity from being sued for defamation by writer E. Jean Carroll.

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