Trump legal news brief: Appeals court denies Trump request for review of immunity claim in Carroll defamation suit

The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejects a request by lawyers for former President Donald Trump for the full court to review whether federal immunity protects him from being sued for defamation by columnist E. Jean Carroll. In Georgia, meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers submit a court filing Monday in Fulton County asking Judge Scott McAfee dismiss the election interference and racketeering charges filed against him by District Attorney Fani Willis on the grounds that he is protected from prosecution because he was president at the time he sought to overturn the 2020 election results. Here’s the latest legal news involving the former president who hopes to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

E. Jean Carroll defamation

Appeals court denies Trump’s request to review immunity defense in civil defamation lawsuit

Key players: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court, columnist E. Jean Carroll

  • On Monday, the appeals court declined a request by Trump’s lawyers for a full review of his claim that federal immunity protects him from being sued for defamation by Carroll, according to the one-page ruling released by the court.

  • The latest defeat in the case, which is set to begin on Jan. 16, means that Trump’s last resort to pursue his immunity claim will be the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • A federal judge and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan had already ruled that Trump is not protected by presidential immunity in the case. Trump’s lawyers had requested that the full court of appeals consider the question.

  • Last month, the same court denied a request by Trump’s lawyers for a three-month delay to the start of the second defamation lawsuit brought by Carroll.

  • In May, a jury found that Trump had sexually abused Carroll in a department store changing room in the mid-1990s and later defamed her by denying her account of the attack. They awarded Carroll $5 million in damages, but Trump promptly repeated his assertion that she had lied about the encounter, causing Carroll to file suit again.

Why it matters: Trump’s argument that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution continues to be rejected on appeal, but will ultimately be decided by the highest court in the land.

Georgia election interference

Key players: Judge Scott McAfee, Trump lawyer Steven Sadow, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, special counsel Jack Smith, columnist E. Jean Carroll, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan

  • In a Monday court filing, Sadow asked McAfee to dismiss all the charges against Trump in Georgia due to the fact that he was president when he sought to overturn the 2020 election results in the state, CBS News reported.

  • “The indictment in this case charges President Trump for acts that lie at the heart of his official responsibilities as President. The indictment is barred by presidential immunity and should be dismissed with prejudice,” the motion stated.

  • Trump’s lawyers have made the same argument — that being president protects one from prosecution — to judges in the civil defamation case brought by Carroll and in the federal election interference case brought by Smith.

  • In a separate filing, Trump’s lawyers wrote that he “lacked fair notice that his advocacy in the instance of the 2020 presidential election could be criminalized.”

  • Monday was the deadline McAfee set for pretrial motions in the case in which Willis charged Trump and 18 others with numerous felonies for their attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. So far, four of the defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution at trial.

  • Willis is hoping to start the trial in August. McAfee has yet to establish a firm start date, but last week rebuffed a request by Giuliani to push back deadlines to review evidence in the case.

Why it matters: Trump’s argument that he cannot be prosecuted or sued for actions he undertook while president presents a major test for the U.S. court system. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments from Smith’s team and Trump’s lawyers on that question. Chutkan and lower courts in New York have already ruled that presidential immunity does not offer him blanket protection, but Chutkan paused the proceedings in the election interference case last month so that Trump’s lawyers could appeal her ruling on presidential immunity. Because of the importance of Tuesday’s hearing, Trump plans to be in attendance.

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