Court Rules Trump’s Immunity Argument Invalid

A 3-judge panel from the federal appeals court in Washington last week rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he was immune from federal prosecution in the federal election interference case, CBS News reported.

In its February 6 opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the decision from US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkin who ruled in early December that presidential immunity was not meant to be a “lifelong get-out-of-jail-free pass.”

The panel, Judges Michelle Childs, Karen LeCraft Henderson, and Florence Pan, said that in the election interference case, “citizen Trump” was entitled to “all of the defenses” afforded to other criminal defendants and the presidential immunity “that may have protected him” while in office “no longer protects him” in this case.

The appellate court also addressed an issue raised in an amicus brief filed by a liberal group in the appeal by noting that it has jurisdiction to consider the merits of any appeal Trump files.

The judges rejected the arguments made by Trump’s attorneys that Trump was “categorically immune” from prosecution for any act that might have been in the “outer perimeter” of his official duties as president. They wrote that violating criminal laws would not be within the scope of Trump’s lawful discretion as president and warned that accepting the defense’s argument would put the president out of the reach of the other co-equal branches of government.

The judges gave Trump until Monday, February 12 to appeal the decision before the panel’s order takes effect.

In a filing submitted to the Supreme Court on February 12, Trump’s attorneys requested a stay to prevent the 3-panel ruling from taking effect, saying that the panel’s decision was a “stunning breach of precedent and historical norms.”

The lawyers argued that unless a president is immune from criminal prosecution, “the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist.”

Trump’s legal team argued that the stay was necessary to allow for time to review the appellate court’s ruling before seeking an appeal either before the full DC Appeals Court or the Supreme Court.

Five of the nine justices would need to approve Trump’s request for a stay.