A three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rules unanimously that presidential immunity does not protect Donald Trump from being prosecuted for his attempts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Yet at the same time, the former president succeeds in delaying the start of his federal election interference trial in the hopes of pushing an ultimate verdict after the 2024 election. Here are the latest legal developments facing the former president seeking to be reelected in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Appeals court rejects Trump’s presidential immunity arguments

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, Judges Florence Pan, J. Michelle Childs and Karen Henderson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, United States Supreme Court

  • A three-judge panel issued a unanimous ruling Tuesday that presidential immunity does not protect Trump from being prosecuted for attempting to overturn his loss in the 2020 election, Politico reported.

  • “We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power,” Pan, Childs and Henderson wrote in their opinion.

  • But the court took 28 days after hearing oral arguments in the case to come to its verdict, and also gave Trump’s lawyers until Feb. 12 to file an emergency appeal of the decision with the United States Supreme Court before it will send the case back to Chutkan.

  • If Trump files an appeal with the Supreme Court, as is expected, the appeals court decision will not go into effect until after the high court makes a ruling.

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that immunity protects sitting presidents from civil lawsuits, but the appeals court ruled that did not apply to former presidents and that the gravity of the crimes Trump is accused of committing is too great to ignore.

  • The Supreme Court may not ultimately agree to hear Trump’s appeal, however, and could kick the case back to Chutkan by the end of month. In that event, the trial could still begin later this spring.

  • Trump could also seek to further delay the trial by asking the full 11-judge court of appeals to review the panel’s ruling. But Tuesday’s ruling made clear that the court would not prevent the return of the case to Chutkan short of the full appeals court agreeing to rehear the presidential immunity question.

  • Chutkan has already been forced to postpone the March 4 start date of the trial, and has dropped the case from the court’s public calendar.

Why it matters: If Trump does succeed in pushing the trial past the election, voters may not have the opportunity to hear the evidence presented in court, or to have a verdict factor into their decision on who to vote for in 2024. Polls have shown consistently that were Trump to be convicted by a jury of felony offenses, many Americans would not vote for him.

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