Last week, the DC Circuit ruled that Trump is not immune from civil suit for his role in the January 6 Capitol Riot, finding that Trump’s actions were taken in his private role as a presidential candidate, rather than part of his official duties. Hours later, Judge Tanya Chutkan issued her own immunity ruling in the DC election interference case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
“Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens,” she wrote in an opinion rubbishing Trump’s motions to dismiss his criminal case based on presidential immunity and also several “constitutional grounds.”
Ever resourceful (and immune to shame) Trump’s lawyers are trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. This afternoon they noticed an appeal of Judge Chutkan’s ruling, followed by an immediate demand that the trial judge stay all proceedings.
“The filing of President Trump’s notice of appeal has deprived this Court of jurisdiction over this case in its entirety pending resolution of the appeal,” they wrote, adding that “As a result of these authorities, all current deadlines must be held in abeyance until, at minimum, this motion is resolved. President Trump will proceed based on that understanding and the authorities set forth herein absent further order of the Court.”
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton!
The theory here appears to be that the stay of civil proceedings in Blassingame v. Trump, the DC Circuit suit, is binding upon the court in the criminal case. Yes, even though the DC Circuit said that the conduct alleged — which largely overlaps with the election interference allegations in the criminal case — were not part of the president’s official duties from which he would be immune from suit.
Well, how about another civil suit that has bupkis to do with the criminal indictment of a former president?
In Coinbase, the Supreme Court considered whether an interlocutory appeal from a denial of a motion to compel arbitration necessitates an automatic stay of proceedings in the district court pending the outcome of the appeal. The Supreme Court held that it does: “The sole question here is whether the district court must stay its pre-trial and trial proceedings while the interlocutory appeal is ongoing. The answer is yes: The district court must stay its proceedings.” 599 U.S. at 738.
Trump’s lawyers did manage to dredge up a criminal case from 1997 where the DC Circuit reversed a RICO conviction because the trial judge went ahead and held the actual trial before the mandate had issued from the appeals court. But that hardly suggests that Trump is immune from pretrial deadlines and can postpone his case at will simply by filing an appeal of the denial of his motion to dismiss.
This seems highly unlikely to cut the mustard with Judge Chutkan, and the prosecution has already said it will object. But who knows, maybe Trump will appeal and get an amazing panel who agrees that “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Paging Judge Neomi Rao …
US v. Trump [Docket via Court Listener]