Supreme Court’s Deadline for Jack Smith Raises Eyebrows

The Supreme Court giving Special Counsel Jack Smith a week to respond to former President Donald Trump’s immunity claim has left some people wondering about the timeline of the case.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts asked Smith to file by February 20 his response to Trump’s application asking justices to pause the appeals court ruling that said he isn’t immune from criminal charges. Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election and argued in and out of court that the case itself is “election interference” in this year’s race.

The Supreme Court often sets a tighter deadline for response to emergency applications, according to the New York Times. Steven Mazie, a Supreme Court reporter for The Economist, noted on X that the deadline isn’t as fast as many people predicted. Attorney Steve Vladeck previously predicted that the Supreme Court would set a deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Lawrence Hurley, a Supreme Court reporter for NBC News, acknowledged that the time given to respond to an application can vary. He pointed out that the Supreme Court gave the Biden administration four days to respond to a request to block consideration of race in West Point admissions.

However, Catherine Christian, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, told MSNBC that it actually signals the opposite. She argued that the Supreme Court’s timeline shows they want to expedite the ruling and that it’s likely Smith already has his response prepared. Attorney Norm Eisen agreed with Christian, writing on X that he “strongly” disagreed with people claiming this was a slow turnaround. He called it “fast” for SCOTUS.

The Supreme Court development comes a week after a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected his claim to absolute immunity from prosecution in Smith’s federal election interference case. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the trial, already ruled against the immunity argument on December 1 when she told Trump that being a former president does not mean getting “a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”

In the emergency application to the Supreme Court on Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked the court to indefinitely delay the trial in Washington D.C. while they prepare to seek an en banc review of the appeals court decision and, ultimately, a full review by the Supreme Court sometime down the road. An en banc review would mean that all 15 judges on the appeals bench would reconsider his appeal.

“Allowing President Trump to pursue en banc review in the D.C. Circuit will provide an opportunity for similar thoughtful consideration in the lower court before this Court addresses the novel, complex, and momentous issues at stake in this appeal,” his lawyers said.

The Supreme Court justices pose for their official portrait on October 7, 2022 in Washington, DC. Inset: Former President Donald Trump speaks on February 9 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court weighed in on Trump’s…

Alex Wong/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Trump’s trial had been scheduled to start on March 4—a day before Super Tuesday—but Chutkan postponed the start date to allow the former president’s immunity appeal to play out in the courts.

The immunity argument had been rejected by three randomly selected judges on the appeals court last week, when the ideologically diverse judges said that “Former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant” in a unanimous opinion.