Trump seeks pause on classified documents case after Supreme Court immunity ruling

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Lawyers for Donald Trump asked a U.S. judge on Friday to partially pause the criminal case accusing the former president of mishandling classified documents, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that presidents have broad immunity for official acts.

Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, said the Supreme Court's ruling that he has broad immunity from criminal prosecution in a case over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election also boosts his claim of immunity in the classified documents prosecution.

A pause is necessary "to minimize the adverse consequences to the institution of the presidency arising from this unconstitutional investigation and prosecution," Trump's lawyers wrote in a court filing.

The request is the latest effort by Trump's legal team to capitalize on the Supreme Court ruling as he faces four criminal prosecutions. Trump has already used the decision to delay his sentencing on charges he falsified business records.

It is also another attempt at delaying the proceedings as Trump seeks to unseat Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Trump's legal team asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump nominee who is overseeing the documents case, to halt activity until she rules on Trump's requests to throw out the charges based on his claim of immunity and his argument that lead prosecutor Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed.

A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally retained sensitive national security documents after leaving office in 2021 and obstructed government efforts to retrieve the material.

The Supreme Court's ruling that former presidents have broad immunity for official actions taken as president could complicate the case.

Trump's lawyers have already argued that Trump's decision to ship the classified records to his Florida resort was an official act.

Prosecutors working with Smith previously called Trump's claim "frivolous," arguing the charges all relate to Trump's conduct after he left the White House.

Trump has also argued that Smith's 2022 appointment to oversee investigations involving Trump violated the U.S. Constitution because his office was not created by Congress.

Prosecutors have disputed the claim.

Trump's claims received a boost from conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In an opinion agreeing with the court's conclusion on presidential immunity, Thomas questioned whether Smith was lawfully appointed.

Thomas' opinion has limited legal authority because he was the only justice to address the issue, which was not part of the case before the court. But Trump's lawyers highlighted it in Friday's court filing as further support for their claims.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)