(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump has asked to halt the federal election obstruction case against him while he appeals a judge’s ruling denying him sweeping immunity from criminal charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The appeal notice filed in court on Thursday escalates a fight that the former president’s legal team contends should not only end the case altogether but also pause upcoming deadlines — and potentially delay the March 4 trial date — in the meantime.
Prosecutors oppose Trump’s request to put the rest of the case on hold, according to Trump’s latest filing. His lawyers asked US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to rule on the pause issue within seven days, signaling they intend to ask a federal appeals court to immediately intervene if she declines to do so.
Chutkan on Dec. 1 rejected Trump’s immunity bid against the prosecution. She wrote that the fact that he was president when Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith’s office alleges he conspired to obstruct the 2020 election didn’t give him a “lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”
Read More: Trump Denied Immunity Against US Election Subversion Charges
Trump’s lawyers had already signaled they would appeal a loss on the immunity question and are prepared to petition the US Supreme Court if they lose again before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
In a 48-page opinion, Chutkan, who was appointed to the federal bench in Washington by former President Barack Obama, held that the “text, structure, and history” of the US Constitution doesn’t permanently shield former presidents against “investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office.”
Trump’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.
The judge also denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the indictment on other constitutional grounds. She found that the case didn’t violate his First Amendment free speech rights, that his 2021 impeachment acquittal in the Senate didn’t create a double jeopardy problem now and that his due process rights weren’t violated because he would have been on “fair notice” that interfering with an election might be illegal.
Hours before Chutkan’s ruling in the criminal case, the DC Circuit released an opinion denying Trump immunity against a separate cluster of civil lawsuits seeking to hold him liable for the post-election violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump could ask the full court to reconsider the three-judge panel’s decision but hasn’t filed that paperwork yet.
The panel held that at this stage Trump hadn’t shown he was entitled to absolute immunity because the plaintiffs — congressional Democrats and law enforcement officers — plausibly alleged he was acting to promote his interests as a political candidate, not carrying out his duties as president. The judges said Trump could revive the immunity issue later if he had evidence he was engaging in official acts at the time.
The DC Circuit panel also made clear that it wasn’t ruling on the question of whether a former president is immune against criminal charges. But the decision offers a road map for prosecutors as they prepare to defend Chutkan’s ruling on appeal.
The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-257, US District Court, District of Columbia.
(Updated with details about Trump’s request to pause the rest of the case starting in the first paragraph.)
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