Trump legal news brief: Supreme Court rejects Jack Smith's request for quick ruling on presidential immunity

Yahoo News' succinct daily update on the criminal and civil cases against the 45th president of the United States.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump campaigning in Waterloo, Iowa, on Tuesday. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
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The U.S. Supreme Court rejects special counsel Jack Smith’s request to fast-track a ruling on whether presidential immunity protects former President Donald Trump from being prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, likely delaying the federal trial. One day after Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani filed for bankruptcy in an effort to shield himself from a jury’s verdict that he must pay two Georgia election workers $148 million for his false claims about them, other lawsuits against the former New York mayor continue to push forward. Here’s the latest on the legal cases facing those who sought to overturn the election.

Jan. 6 election interference

Supreme Court rejects Jack Smith’s request to quickly rule on presidential immunity question

Key players: United States Supreme Court, special counsel Jack Smith, Judge Tanya Chutkan

  • On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by Smith to fast-track a decision on whether presidential immunity protected Trump from prosecution in the case that alleges he defrauded the United States with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the Associated Press reported.

  • The court’s decision not to immediately rule on that question puts the March 4 start date for Trump’s federal trial in jeopardy.

  • The justices did not offer reasons for rejecting Smith’s request.

  • Judge Chutkan, who ruled Trump was not protected by presidential immunity in the case, had paused the trial proceedings until the appeals process played out.

  • The issue is already being reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for Jan. 9, but Smith sought to speed things along by making his risky request to the high court.

  • In his request, Smith noted that an appeal of the D.C. Circuit’s ruling might not reach the Supreme Court before its summer recess.

  • Trump’s lawyers had asked the court to slow down the process.

Why it matters: Trump has been working to delay the start of the criminal and civil trials he faces until after the 2024 presidential elections. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released this week offers one reason why: If convicted of a serious crime, Trump’s support with voters would plummet.

Dominion, Smartmatic and others press ahead with lawsuits against Giuliani

Key players: Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, voting machine manufacturer Dominion, voting technology company Smartmatic, Hunter Biden, attorney Robert Costello, bankruptcy expert Eric Snyder

  • When Giuliani filed for bankruptcy Wednesday in the wake of a jury’s verdict that he was required to pay Freeman and Moss $148 million for his false claims that they had manipulated votes in the 2020 election in Georgia, he listed up to $500 million in liabilities and only between $1 and $10 in assets.

  • As Business Insider notes, those liabilities include the amounts being sought from the former New York mayor in lawsuits brought by Smartmatic, Dominion, the president’s son Hunter and others.

  • “Dominion’s effort to hold Rudy Giuliani accountable will move forward,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider regarding the lawsuit that seeks damages of more than $1.3 billion.

  • Smartmatic is suing Giuliani and Fox News for $2.7 billion for their false election claims.

  • Hunter Biden is suing Giuliani for an unspecified amount for allegedly hacking into his digital devices.

  • Costello is suing Giuliani for $1.4 million in unpaid legal bills.

  • After Giuliani repeated his false claims against Moss and Freeman, the pair filed a second suit Monday against the former mayor.

  • While Giuliani may not have the financial resources to pay those who have sued him, bankruptcy will not shield him from paying what he does have, experts say, because he purposefully broke civil laws.

  • “If you owe somebody money and you get a judgment, you can get rid of that in the bankruptcy,” Snyder, chairman of the bankruptcy practice at Wilk Auslander, told Business Insider. “But if the judgment comes from certain things — like fraud, breach of your duties, intentional torts — then you can’t get rid of them.”

Why it matters: As he heads into bankruptcy proceedings amid multiple civil lawsuits and a forthcoming criminal trial in Fulton County, Ga., Giuliani’s answers about his financial condition and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election will be under scrutiny even more than they already have been.

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Thursday, Dec. 21


A recording of a Nov. 17, 2020, telephone call surfaces in which former President Donald Trump is heard pressuring two Michigan officials not to certify his election loss to Joe Biden. Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani files for bankruptcy one day after a federal judge ruled he must immediately pay two Georgia election workers the $148 million defamation judgment determined by a Washington jury. In paperwork filed Thursday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York, Giuliani lists assets between $1 million and $10 million, and debts between $100 million and $500 million.

Jan. 6 election interference

Captured on tape: Trump pressured Wayne County canvassers to withhold certification of 2020 election

Key players: RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Michigan Republican canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartman, special counsel Jack Smith, former Michigan Democratic canvasser Jonathan Kinloch

  • The Detroit News obtained an audio recording of a Nov. 17, 2020, phone call in which Trump pressured Palmer and Hartman to withhold their signatures to an official document so as to block the certification of Biden’s victory in the swing state.

  • Trump, according to the News, told the two they would look “terrible” if they signed the documents, despite the fact that they had already voted to certify the legitimate results.

  • McDaniel, a native of Michigan, told the two canvassers: “If you can go home tonight, do not sign it. … We will get you attorneys.”

  • Trump added: “We’ll take care of that.”

  • Audio recordings of the conversation were made by someone present for the conversation between Trump, McDaniel, Palmer and Hartman, the News reported.

  • Neither Palmer nor Hartman went on to sign the document certifying Biden’s victory.

  • As part of his case against Trump, Smith has focused on the former president’s efforts to erase his 154,000-vote defeat in Michigan.

  • “It’s just shocking that the president of the United States was at the most minute level trying to stop the election process from happening,” Kinloch said when asked about the call.

Why it matters: Along with Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which the former president asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss to Biden, the newly revealed recording with Michigan officials will help Smith establish Trump’s direct involvement in what he alleges was a plot to “defraud the United States.”

Georgia election interference

Giuliani files for bankruptcy after judge orders immediate payment of $148 million defamation judgment

Key players: Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, District Judge Beryl Howell, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss

  • One day after Howell ordered Giuliani to immediately pay Moss and Freeman a $148 million defamation judgment stemming from his assertions that the two women had helped rig the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Giuliani filed for bankruptcy in New York, Reuters reported.

  • In paperwork submitted to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani said he had assets of between $1 million and $10 million, but that he owed between $100 and $500 million, including the $148 million owed to Moss and Freeman.

  • Giuliani’s filing also lists Hunter Biden as a creditor, but did not specify the amount of money he owed the president’s son. Hunter Biden sued Giuliani in September for violating his privacy.

  • In Wednesday’s ruling, Howell suggested Giuliani was not being truthful about his finances in an effort to avoid paying out the two election workers.

  • “Such claims of Giuliani's ‘financial difficulties’ — no matter how many times repeated or publicly disseminated and duly reported in the media — are difficult to square with the fact that Giuliani affords a spokesperson, who accompanied him daily to trial,” Howell wrote.

  • On Monday, Moss and Freeman filed another lawsuit against Giuliani to keep him from repeating his election lies.

Why it matters: Giuliani still faces steep legal bills in Georgia, where he is charged with 11 felonies in the plot to overturn the 2020 election results. The jury’s verdict, awarding Freeman and Moss $148 million after being defamed by Giuliani, is also one more example of the courts dismissing Trump’s election falsehoods. Trump continues to promote those baseless claims and, in at least one case against him, plans to push them as a defense strategy.


Tuesday, Dec. 19


Setting up an appeal before the highest court in the land, the Colorado Supreme Court issues a landmark ruling to remove former President Donald Trump’s name from state ballots based on its reading of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers for Trump seek to block Northwestern University marketing professor Ashlee Humphreys from testifying in the second defamation lawsuit brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll. Days after winning a $148 million civil judgment against former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss file another lawsuit against him to keep him from repeating his false claims against them. Here is the latest legal news involving the man who hopes to win reelection to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Colorado Supreme Court blocks Trump from appearing on ballot

Key players: Colorado Supreme Court, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

  • In a 4-3 ruling Tuesday, the court voted to remove Trump from presidential primary ballots, the Associated Press reported.

  • The decision was based on its reading of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars those who have “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

  • “A majority of the court holds that Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” the ruling states.

  • But the court also stayed its ruling until Jan. 4, giving Trump’s lawyers time to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme court in the case brought by CREW on behalf of Colorado voters.

  • A lower court judge had ruled that while Trump had “engaged in an insurrection” stemming from his actions to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss to Joe Biden, it was not clear that Section 3 applied to the presidency.

  • The Colorado Supreme court ruled that it did.

  • Other state courts are also hearing 14th Amendment challenges to Trump’s inclusion on ballots.

Why it matters: The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling will ultimately settle the question of whether Trump is entitled to seek the presidency again following his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol building.

E. Jean Carroll defamation

Trump looks to block key witness from testifying

Key players: Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll, Judge Lewis Kaplan, Trump lawyer Michael Madaio, Northwestern University marketing professor Ashlee Humphreys, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss

  • In a court filing last week, Trump’s lawyers asked Kaplan to “exclude” Humphreys’s testimony from the second defamation case brought by Carroll, the Daily Beast reported.

  • In May, during the first civil case brought by Carroll, Humphreys testified about the financial damage Trump’s alleged sexual assault and defamation had done to the writer’s reputation. A jury concluded that Trump had indeed sexually assaulted Carroll and awarded her $5 million.

  • Humphreys was also a witness in the defamation trial of Giuliani brought by Georgia election workers Freeman and Moss, testifying last week regarding damages. The jury in that case ordered Giuliani to pay Freeman and Moss $148 million.

  • In their filing last week, Trump’s lawyers faulted the methodology used by Humphreys to calculate financial damages.

  • “The damages estimations in her initial report are egregiously inflated (to the tune of millions of dollars), utilize methods which ascribe harm in an unreliable and incorrect manner; and do not accurately reflect the actual harm to plaintiff’s reputation,” Madaio wrote in the filing.

  • Following the first judgment, Trump again attacked Carroll’s credibility, leading her to file another lawsuit. The second defamation trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 15.

Why it matters: In two high-profile cases involving Trump, juries have been persuaded that Humphreys’s estimates on damages are sound, and largely adhered to them in reaching the $5 million judgment against the former president.

Georgia election interference

Giuliani sued again by Georgia poll workers following $148 million judgment

Key players: Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss

  • Days after a Washington jury ordered Giuliani to pay Freeman and Moss $148 million in damages for defaming them with false claims about their role in the 2020 presidential election, the pair filed a new lawsuit Monday against the former New York mayor, Bloomberg reported, to keep him from repeating his false assertions.

  • “Defendant Giuliani’s statements, coupled with his refusal to agree to refrain from continuing to make such statements, make clear that he intends to persist in his campaign of targeted defamation and harassment,” the new lawsuit states. “It must stop.”

  • On Monday, Giuliani was interviewed on Newsmax, and was asked if he still believed his allegations that the two women manipulated votes that contributed to Trump’s loss in Georgia.

  • “If I showed you the evidence right now, and I think you’ve played it on your air, people would see that what I said was absolutely true,” Giuliani responded.

  • Giuliani declined to testify during the case, despite earlier claims that he would present evidence that proved his claims. He has vowed to appeal last week’s verdict.

Why it matters: Like Trump in the E. Jean Carroll case, Giuliani has stood by his claims despite losing a defamation judgment, setting up follow-up lawsuits.


Monday, Dec. 18


Mark Meadows
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in his booking photo from Aug. 24 in Atlanta. (Fulton County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)

An appeals court on Monday rejects a bid by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to have his Georgia election interference case moved to federal court. Lawyers for former President Donald Trump go on the offensive Monday, issuing a filing with Georgia Judge Scott McAfee asking that the charges against the former president be dropped because they violate his “core political speech.” In the federal election interference case, meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers ask an appeals court to reconsider their ruling last month that let stand a gag order that prohibits Trump from speaking about witnesses, prosecutors and courtroom staff, saying the ruling conflicts with decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are the latest legal developments involving the man who hopes to return to the White House in 2024.

Georgia election interference

Appeals court rejects Meadows’s bid to move case to federal court

Key players: Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

  • On Monday, a three-judge appeals court panel rejected an attempt by Meadows to have his case in Georgia moved to federal court, Reuters reported.

  • In their ruling the judges wrote that “the events giving rise to this criminal action were not related to Meadows’ official duties.”

  • Meadows, who had appealed a ruling by a district court that refused to allow him to move his case to federal court, has argued that he could not be tried in state court because the actions he undertook to overturn the 2020 election results were part of his official federal duties.

  • Willis has charged Meadows with two felonies: violation of the Georgia RICO Act and solicitation of violation of oath by public officer.

Why it matters: Monday’s ruling affirms the lower court’s decision and makes Meadows’s chances of a successful appeal less likely.

Trump asks judge to dismiss ‘invalid’ charges

Key players: Judge Scott McAfee, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Trump attorneys Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little

  • In a filing on Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked McAfee to dismiss the election interference charges against him because they violated his “core political speech,” the Guardian reported.

  • "Because the claim the 2020 election was rigged and stolen is protected by First Amendment when it is made in a public speech, it is equally protected by the First Amendment when it is made to government officials in an act of petitioning or advocacy," Sadown and Little wrote in the filing.

  • The First Amendment “not only embraces but encourages” Trump’s request to Raffensberger to “find” enough votes to overcome President Biden’s margin of victory, the filing states.

  • Willis has charged Trump with 13 felony counts for his role in a scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Why it matters: As with the attempt to have federal election interference charges dropped on grounds of presidential immunity, Trump’s lawyers are seeking to use the First Amendment as a blanket protection from prosecution. McAfee will have to decide whether Trump’s words in the Georgia case were simply expressing an opinion or were directing a conspiracy that violated state laws.

Jan. 6 election interference

Trump asks federal appeals court to reconsider gag order decision

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

  • On Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked a court of appeals panel to reconsider its decision to leave in place a partial gag order on the former president issued by Chutkan, or to allow arguments on the issue to be heard by the full court, CNN reported.

  • The 22-page filing states that the gag order imposed on Trump “conflicts with decisions of the Supreme Court and other Circuits” and therefore requires “consideration” from the full court.

  • Trump’s lawyers also requested that the gag order be lifted until the court decides on the matter.

  • Last month, a three-judge court of appeals panel ruled unanimously that the bulk of Chutkan’s order barring Trump from talking about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and their family members could stand.

Why it matters: As Monday’s filing shows, if at first Trump’s lawyers don’t succeed, they will try, try again. They have been successful in forcing Chutkan to pause the proceedings in the case while they pursue an appeal that argues that presidential immunity protects Trump from being prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.