Trump Asks Appeals Court to Toss Election Case on Immunity Grounds

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked an appeals court in Washington on Saturday night to toss a federal indictment accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, arguing that he was immune to the charges because they arose from actions he had taken while he was in the White House.

The weekend filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was the latest salvo in a long-running and crucial battle between Mr. Trump and the special counsel, Jack Smith, over whether the former president enjoys immunity to the election interference charges.

The fight over immunity has now touched all three levels of the federal court system, including the Supreme Court, which on Friday declined Mr. Smith’s request to intervene and hear the case before the appeals court. The ultimate resolution of the issue will have a significant effect not only on the overall viability of the election interference case, but also on whether a trial on the charges is postponed until the heart of the 2024 campaign — or even until after the election. At that point, if Mr. Trump wins the presidency, he could order the charges to be dropped.

In a 55-page brief to a three-judge panel of the court, D. John Sauer, a lawyer who has been handling appeals for Mr. Trump, argued that under the Constitution, judges cannot hold the president accountable for any acts undertaken while in office.

“Under our system of separated powers, the judicial branch cannot sit in judgment over a president’s official acts,” Mr. Sauer wrote, adding, “That doctrine is not controversial.”

But, of course, the fact that this issue was being debated on appeal suggested that it was at the center of a hotly contested controversy.

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