US Supreme Court To Hear Trump Immunity Claim

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday on whether Donald Trump, as a former president, should be immune from criminal prosecution for actions he took while in office.

The decision could have far-reaching consequences for the scope of US presidential power, as well as Trump’s numerous legal troubles as he pursues reelection to the presidency.

While most constitutional law experts believe Trump will lose the legal battle, he may already have won the political one.

By accepting the case, the court’s nine justices postponed — possibly indefinitely — the start of Trump’s trial on allegations of plotting to alter the 2020 election results won by Joe Biden.

The subject of whether an ex-president is immune to prosecution is unproven in American law because, before to Trump, no previous White House occupant had been charged with a crime.

“Famously, Richard Nixon engaged in criminal law-breaking,” said James Sample, a constitutional law professor at Hofstra University.

“But because he resigned, and (successor) Gerald Ford then pardoned him, we have never had to squarely address the notion of a criminal prosecution against a former president.”

Special Counsel Jack Smith launched the election conspiracy case against 77-year-old Trump in August, pushing for a March trial date.

However, the Republican presidential candidate’s lawyers submitted a slew of motions seeking to postpone the lawsuit against him, including claiming that an ex-president had “absolute immunity.”

Two lower courts emphatically rejected that argument, but in February, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case.

One lower court held that Trump’s immunity claim is “unsupported by precedent” or the United States Constitution.

“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” the judges said.

Nevertheless, Trump is eyeing a friendly hearing from a court he had a critical role in shaping, having appointed three justices to give it a 6-3 conservative majority.

‘Jack Smith 1, Donald Trump 0’ 

Sample and other scholars said the high court was unlikely to hold that a president enjoys blanket immunity from prosecution.

“I find it hard to believe that even this very, very conservative, very pro-Trump Supreme Court will be inclined to find in favour of an argument that says a president is completely immune” regardless of his actions, Sample said, adding such a holding could be abused by any president.

“I think the scoreboard will read Jack Smith 1, Donald Trump 0.”

Like Sample, Steven Schwinn, a University of Illinois Chicago law professor, believes the calendar would be of greater consequence.

“Even if the court hands Trump a decisive, unqualified defeat, the prosecution will have to scramble to get the trial before the (November) election,” he said.

Trump has claimed that without immunity, “a president will not be able to properly function, or make decisions, in the best interest” of the country.

Smith rebuffed that argument in a Supreme Court filing.

“The President’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed does not entail a general right to violate them,” he said.

Trump is facing 2020 election accusations in Georgia, and he has been indicted in Florida for allegedly mishandling secret documents.

This week, he sat through the first few days of his New York trial on state accusations of falsifying business records by paying a porn star “hush money” prior to the 2016 election.

 

 

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