As many expected, a Washington D.C.-based federal appeals court has determined that former President Donald Trump cannot claim immunity in his 2020 election interference case,
The panel of three judges ruled: “We have balanced former President Trump’s asserted interests in executive immunity against the vital public interests that favor allowing this prosecution to proceed.”
After reviewing arguments, the court concluded “that the interest in criminal accountability, held by both the public and the Executive Branch, outweighs the potential risks of chilling Presidential action and permitting vexatious litigation.”
The appeals court statement that the panel of judges was “unpersuaded by his argument” is largely viewed as a win for embattled Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading in prosecuting Jan. 6 and Georgia State election interference cases.
Trump anticipated the ruling and previously signaled the issue would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The former president’s campaign spokesperson, Seven Cheung, emphasized to Fox News that the case was of great importance and had far-reaching ramifications.
“If immunity is not granted to a President, every future President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party,” Chung said. “Without complete immunity, a President of the United States would not be able to properly function!”
Chung added: “Deranged Jack Smith’s prosecution of President Trump for his Presidential, official acts is unconstitutional under the doctrine of Presidential Immunity and the Separation of Powers. Prosecuting a President for official acts violates the Constitution and threatens the bedrock of our Republic. President Trump respectfully disagrees with the DC Circuit’s decision and will appeal it in order to safeguard the Presidency and the Constitution.”
The case is complicated by Trump’s assertion that presidential immunity has been a traditional hallmark of the office, and that Smith’s prosecution constitutes double jeopardy as he was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
The rejection of the presidential immunity argument echoes a Dec. 2023 ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who curtly said that serving as President of the United States “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”
Several unexpectedly sharp comments from Judge Engoron (overseeing a case in New York City) and Judge Chutkan (overseeing a case in Georgia) have led Trump to allege political bias in the rulings.
Though losing on multiple fronts in lower courts, Trump is winning in the court of public opinion. Polls show that most Americans believe the Department of Justice has not treated the former president fairly.
Accordingly, Trump enjoys phenomenally high poll numbers and has become the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
Nevertheless, an excerpt from the Tuesday appeals court ruling reads:
“Concerns of public policy, especially as illuminated by our history and the structure of our government…[compel] the rejection of his claim of immunity in this case.”
The court added: “We also have considered [former President Trump’s] contention that he is entitled to categorical immunity from criminal liability for any assertedly ‘official’ action that he took as President — a contention that is unsupported by precedent, history, or the text and structure of the Constitution.”
The court concluded: “Finally, we are unpersuaded by his argument that this prosecution is barred by ‘double jeopardy principles.’ Accordingly, the order of the district court is AFFIRMED.”
Many believe the ruling sets the stage for future grand juries to be used to indict former presidents. With no statute of limitations, some say the stage is set to levy charges against President Biden and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Trump’s legal team has 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, who are currently slated to review several cases related to the former president.
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