Supreme Court sets Feb. 20 deadline for special counsel response in Trump immunity case

Trump wants the court to stay an appeals court rejection of his immunity claim.

A day after former President Donald Trump filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to stay last week's appeals court decision that rejected his claim of absolute immunity from prosecution in special counsel Jack Smith's election interference case, the court on Tuesday asked the special counsel to respond within a week.

The Supreme Court asked for the special counsel to file his response by the afternoon of Feb. 20.

After that filing, Trump's legal team will get a chance to file a reply, after which the court can act on Trump's request at any time, at its discretion.

Trump, who in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election, is seeking the dismissal of the case on the grounds that he has "absolute immunity" from prosecution for actions taken while serving in the nation's highest office.

Last week a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Trump's claim of presidential immunity, clearing the way for Trump to seek to appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

In Trump's application to the Supreme Court, filed Monday, his attorneys argued that the high court should allow the appellate process to play out -- and effectively delay any possible trial indefinitely -- given the magnitude of the issues and the stakes for the upcoming presidential election.

Trump's lawyers suggested that the former president intends to seek en banc review -- done by the entire bench rather than a select panel -- of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and, ultimately, Supreme Court review some time down the road.

"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 attorneys wrote in the new filing.

In last week's ruling, the appellate panel flatly dismissed Trump's claims to legal immunity and said that affording him such protection "would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches."

Trump's trial had been scheduled to start on March 4 before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan postponed that start date while waiting for his immunity appeal to play out.