By Doina Chiacu and Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Donald Trump lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal on Monday of his disqualification from Colorado’s ballot, but quickly turned his attention to another big case before the justices by publicly lobbying for presidential immunity from prosecution.

“I have great respect for the Supreme Court. And I want to just thank them for working so quickly and so diligently and so brilliantly,” the former president said in Florida after the justices ruled in his favor by barring states from disqualifying candidates for federal office based on a constitutional provision concerning insurrection.

“And while we’re on the subject – and another thing that will be coming up very soon will be immunity for a president,” Trump added.

The Supreme Court in April is due to hear Trump’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling rejecting his claim of immunity from prosecution in a criminal case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith involving Trump’s actions intended to reverse President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over him.

Trump, the first former U.S. president to be criminally prosecuted, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

The court’s decision not to schedule its arguments until the week of April 22 reduces the chances that a trial in the case brought by Smith could be finished before the election. The trial was previously scheduled to have begun this week.

Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-lago estate that a former president should not have to face four criminal indictments and civil litigation – as he does in cases that he called politically motivated.

“Presidents have to be given total immunity. They have to be allowed to do their job,” Trump added.

Trump sought to frame his argument for immunity as a defense of the presidency, not of himself. He mentioned operations that he ordered during his 2017-2021 presidency that killed Islamist militants who he called “leading terrorists.”

“And those are big decisions. I don’t want to be prosecuted for it,” Trump said.

“When you make a decision, you don’t want to have your opposing party or opponents – or even somebody that just thinks you’re wrong – bring a criminal suit against you or any kind of suit when you leave office,” Trump added.

It is not the first time Trump has tried to make his case publicly for presidential immunity, but the timing of his remarks on Monday made them seem aimed directly at the Supreme Court’s nine justices.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Dec. 1 ruled against Trump’s immunity claim.

“Whatever immunities a sitting president may enjoy, the United States has only one chief executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass,” Chutkan wrote.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 6 upheld Chutkan’s ruling, rejecting Trump’s bid for “unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and implementation of election results.”

Among the four criminal cases against Trump, two relate to his efforts to reverse the 2020 election results, one concerns his handling of classified documents after leaving office and one involves hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

During his comments in Florida, Trump lashed out at prosecutors and judges in his various criminal and civil cases.

“It’s a very unfair thing for me,” Trump said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung and John Kruzel; Editing by Will Dunham)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.

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