Supreme Court rules former presidents have broad immunity, reducing chances of Trump trial before election

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court ruled for the first time on Monday that former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution, extending a stay of criminal proceedings in Washington against Donald Trump over allegations that conspired to reverse his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. and the almost nonexistent chances that the former president will be tried before the November election.

IN historic 6-3 decisionThe court’s conservative majority, including three Trump-appointed justices, narrowed the case against him and returned it to the trial court to determine what remains of special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment.

The ruling reflected a mighty view of presidential power and led dissenting justices to criticize it for undermining a fundamental democratic principle that no one is above the law.

The court’s decision underscored how the justices have been thrust into a significant role in November’s presidential election. They previously had he rejected attempts to prevent him from running in the elections because of his actions after the 2020 election. The court last week also reduced the obstruction of justice charge Trump faced, which was used against hundreds of his supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The division among the justices in many ways also reflected the political division in the country.

“Under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential authority entitles a former president to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for acts within his ultimate and exclusive constitutional authority,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all of his official acts. There is no immunity for unofficial acts.”

The chief justice insisted that the president “is not above the law.” But in a fiery dissent to the court’s three liberals, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “With every use of official power, the president is now king above the law.”

Reading her opinion to the court, Sotomayor said, “Because our Constitution does not protect a former president from liability for criminal acts and treason, I dissent.” Sotomayor said the decision “makes a mockery of the principle, at the heart of our Constitution and system of government, that no man is above the law.”

” READ MORE: Supreme Court’s Jan. 6 ruling: How a Pennsylvania cop’s challenge led to hundreds of Capitol riot cases falling through and could ultimately help Trump

The court’s protections for presidents “are as bad as they sound and without merit,” she said.

Trump posted in all caps on his social media shortly after announcing the decision: “A GREAT VICTORY FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY. PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

Smith’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

President Joe Biden’s campaign said in a statement: statement that the Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity “does not change the facts” about the events of January 6.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer denounced the ruling as a “shameful decision” made with the complicity of three Trump-appointed judges.

“This undermines the credibility of the Supreme Court and shows that our courts are now governed primarily by political influence,” the New York Democrat said on the X show.

The justices threw out one aspect of the indictment. The opinion said Trump was “absolutely immune” from prosecution for alleged conduct involving discussions with the Justice Department.

Trump is also “at least presumptively immune” from allegations that he tried to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the electoral vote on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors could try to argue that Trump’s pressure on Pence could still be part of the case against him, Roberts wrote.

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The court ordered a factual review of one of the more striking allegations in the indictment — that Trump participated in a conspiracy to recruit imitation electors in battleground states won by Biden who would falsely claim Trump had won. The two sides had sharply different interpretations of whether the effort could be considered official, and the conservative justices said determining which side was right would require additional analysis at the trial court level.

Roberts’ opinion further restricted prosecutors by prohibiting them from using any official acts as evidence in attempts to prove that the president’s unofficial actions violated the law. One example, irrelevant to this case but brought up in arguments, was a hypothetical bribe in exchange for an ambassadorial appointment.

According to Monday’s decision, the former president could be charged with accepting a bribe, but prosecutors could not invoke the fact of his official appointment in his case.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the rest of Roberts’ opinion, dissented on the issue. “The Constitution does not require juries to be blinded to the circumstances surrounding conduct for which presidents may be held accountable,” Barrett wrote.

She also called the scrutiny of voter fraud claims unnecessary. “I see no credible argument for not prosecuting this alleged conduct,” Barrett wrote.

The task of determining how to proceed will fall on the shoulders of a U.S. district judge. – asked Chutkanwho will preside over Trump’s trial.

Trump could still face trial, said Notre Dame law professor Derek Muller. “But the fact remains that it’s nearly impossible for that to happen before the election.”

David Becker, an election law expert and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research, called the scope of Trump’s immunity “extraordinarily broad” and “deeply troubling.”

” READ MORE: 7 in 10 Americans say Supreme Court justices put ideology above impartiality, new AP-NORC poll finds

“Almost everything a president does with executive power is characterized as an official act,” he said in a call with reporters after the ruling. He said that “for any dishonest individual who is in the Oval Office who may lose an election, the way I read this opinion could be a road map for them to stay in power.”

The ruling was the last of this term and came more than two months after the court heard arguments, significantly slower than other major court cases involving the presidency, including the Watergate tapes case.

The former Republican president denies any wrongdoing. He said the accusation and three others are politically motivated and aimed at preventing him from returning to the White House.

In May, Trump became the first former president to convicted of a crimein a New York court. He was found guilty of falsifying business records to conceal hush money paid during the 2016 presidential election to a porn actress who claims she had sex with him, which he denies. He still faces charges three other indictments.

Blacksmith is conducting two federal investigations into the former president, both of which have led to criminal charges. The Washington case centers on Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election after he lost to Biden. The Florida case alleges mishandling of classified documents. A separate case in Georgia also concerns Trump’s actions after his 2020 defeat.

If Trump’s trial in Washington does not take place before the 2024 election and he is not granted another four years in the White House, it is likely he will be tried shortly thereafter.

But if he wins, he could appoint an attorney general to seek dismissal of that case and other federal charges he faces. He could also try to pardon himself if he retakes the White House. He could not pardon himself for his conviction in New York state court.

The Supreme Court that heard the case included three Trump-appointed justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett — plus two justices who did not recuse themselves from the hearing after questions about their impartiality were raised.

Thomas’s wife, GuineaShe attended a rally near the White House where Trump spoke on January 6, 2021, though she did not go to the Capitol when crowd of Trump supporters she attacked him shortly afterward. After the 2020 election, she called the result a “raid” and exchanged messages with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, urging him to stand with Trump as he falsely claimed there was widespread voter fraud.

Justice Samuel Alito said that there is no reason for him to step away of the cases following reporting by The New York Times that flags similar to those flown by the Jan. 6 rioters flew over his homes in Virginia and on the New Jersey shore. His wife, Martha-Ann Alito, was responsible for displaying both an inverted American flag in January 2021 and an “Appeal to Heaven” banner in the summer of 2023, he said in letters to Democratic lawmakers responding to their exemption requests.

Before the Supreme Court got involved, a trial judge and a three-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled that Trump could be impeached for actions he took while in the White House and in the period leading up to Jan. 6.

pinch ruled against Trump’s immunity claim in December. In her ruling, Chutkan said the office of the president “does not provide a lifetime ‘get out of jail free’ pass.”

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