Citing Supreme Court immunity ruling, Trump’s lawyers seek to freeze the classified documents case

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Chesapeake, Va., Friday, June 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump asked a federal judge Friday to freeze the classified documents case against him in light of a Supreme Court ruling this week that said former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution.

Trump’s lawyers told U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that the prosecution should be put on pause until she resolves pending defense motions that assert that Trump is immune from criminal charges in the case and that special counsel Jack Smith was illegally appointed by the Justice Department.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 6-3 opinion Monday that presidents enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution for actions involving their core constitutional powers and are presumptively immune for all other official acts. In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Smith’s appointment was invalid because there is “no law establishing” the office of the special counsel.

The request Friday underscores the potentially far-reaching implications of the high court’s opinion. On Tuesday, sentencing for Trump’s hush money convictions was postponed until at least September as the judge in the New York case agreed to weigh the possible impact of the opinion.

The opinion came in a separate case brought by Smith charging Trump with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But Trump’s lawyers in the documents case in Florida, where he is charged with illegally retaining top secret records from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago estate, have challenged the indictment on the same legal grounds raised in Monday’s Supreme Court opinion.

Cannon heard arguments last month on the legality of Smith’s appointment, but did not immediately rule. She has also not ruled on the immunity question.

“Resolution of these threshold questions is necessary to minimize the adverse consequences to the institution of the Presidency arising from this unconstitutional investigation and prosecution,” defense lawyers wrote as they requested the opportunity to make additional paperwork.

They said the case should be frozen, with the exception of a separate, and also unresolved, dispute over an effort by prosecutors to bar Trump from making public comments that could endanger FBI agents involved in the case.