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You’re a mean one, Mr. Smith: Trump attorneys call special counsel the Grinch in court filing

Trump’s lawyers used the holiday jeer in arguing that a federal appeals court should deny Jack Smith’s bid to expedite an appeal on the former president’s immunity claims.
Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Special counsel Jack Smith.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly called special counsel Jack Smith “deranged” and a “thug.” Now his attorneys are comparing him to the Grinch.

Trump’s lawyers made the comparison in a court filing Wednesday that unsuccessfully urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to rule against Smith’s request for an expedited appeal on whether Trump can claim presidential immunity in a criminal case accusing him of illegally trying to stay in power after his 2020 election loss.

In the filing, Trump’s attorneys said that signing off on Smith’s proposed schedule “would make President Trump’s opening brief due the day after Christmas. This proposed schedule would require attorneys and support staff to work round-the-clock through the holidays, inevitably disrupting family and travel plans. It is as if the Special Counsel ‘growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, “I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming. … But how?”'"

That’s a reference to Dr. Seuss’ classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” about a character with a heart two sizes too small who hates the whole Christmas season and plots to sabotage the holiday.

Film Title: The Grinch
A scene from "The Grinch."Universal Studios

Peter Carr, a spokesperson for Smith’s office, declined comment.

Prosecutors filed their response to Trump’s legal arguments Wednesday and suggested Trump’s attorneys had their math wrong, saying their filing would be due Dec. 23, not Dec. 26. “In any event, the public’s need for a speedy resolution of these important legal issues take precedence over personal scheduling issues,” prosecutors wrote.

They did not mention Trump’s holiday jab.

In a ruling late Wednesday, the appeals court granted Smith's request without explanation. They ordered Trump's team to file their brief in the case by Dec. 23, and gave Smith until Dec. 30 to respond. Trump will then have until Jan. 2 to file to response to that filing. Oral arguments will then be held at a later date.

That decision was handed down after the judge presiding over the underlying criminal case, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, halted proceedings in the case until the immunity appeal is resolved.

In their Wednesday filing, Trump’s attorneys had urged the appeals court not to rush.

“This appeal presents novel, complex, and sensitive questions of profound importance,” they wrote. “Whether a President of the United States may be criminally prosecuted for his official acts as President goes to the core of our system of separated powers and will stand among the most consequential questions ever decided by this Court. The manifest public interest lies in the Court’s careful and deliberate consideration of these momentous issues with the utmost care and diligence.”

Trump’s lawyers argued that the only reason Smith was seeking expedited consideration was to keep the March 4 trial date on track, a schedule the defense maintains is unrealistic given the “enormous volume of discovery” in the case and numerous novel legal issues surrounding prosecution of a former president.

“The prosecution has one goal in this case: To unlawfully attempt to try, convict, and sentence President Trump before an election in which he is likely to defeat President Biden. This represents a blatant attempt to interfere with the 2024 presidential election and to disenfranchise the tens of millions of voters who support President Trump’s candidacy,” they contended.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case.

In a separate appeal of a gag order barring Trump from attacking potential witnesses in the case, his attorneys argued that the trial should be delayed until after the November election. A panel of D.C. Court of Appeals judges shot down that suggestion last week and ruled largely in Smith’s favor.

“Delaying the trial date until after the election, as Mr. Trump proposes, would be counterproductive, create perverse incentives, and unreasonably burden the judicial process,” the ruling said. “In addition, postponing trial would incentivize criminal defendants to engage in harmful speech as a means of delaying their prosecution,” the judges added.

Smith's filing argued that time is of the essence.

"Expediting the appeal in this case is necessary to vindicate the public’s interest in a timely trial," Smith's team contended, and would not prevent "the parties from giving the issues on appeal due consideration."

In addition to the appeal before the appeals court, Smith has moved to have the matter heard directly by the Supreme Court.

If Trump were to win the 2024 election and the trial delayed, that would call into question when he could be tried. At a hearing this month in Georgia on state election interference charges, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee asked Trump attorney Steve Sadow if Trump could stand trial in 2025 if he were elected in November.

“The answer to that is I believe that under the supremacy clause and his duties as president of the United States, this trial would not take place at all until after he left his term in office,” Sadow replied.