What do you think?
A federal appeals court today (Tuesday 2.6.24) said that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency, flatly rejecting Trump’s arguments that he shouldn’t have to go on trial on federal election subversion charges.
Here are some key takeaways from Tuesday's decision:
Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election could be criminal: The judges made it clear that Trump's actions could be prosecuted in a court of law.
"Vital public interest" of letting trial proceed weighed heavily on the court: The judges cited the public interest in accountability for potential crimes committed by a former president, and how that overcame Trump’s argument that immunity was necessary to protect the institution of the presidency. They flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his criminal indictment would have a “chilling effect” on future administrations.
Trial timing will be up to the Supreme Court: A key part of Trump’s legal strategy has been to delay his criminal cases until after the 2024 election. Now, the trial's timing will be in the hands of the Supreme Court. If Trump is successful with getting the Supreme Court to hear the appeal, the criminal trial would not resume until after the high court decides what to do with his request for a pause.
What happens next: The appeals court has set up a very fast schedule for Trump to ask Supreme Court to block the immunity ruling, giving him until Monday to file an emergency stay request with the court.
One paragraph in Tuesday’s ruling has caught the attention of legal experts who are also watching the 14th Amendment “insurrectionist ban” case that is being argued at the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The cases are entirely separate – this is a criminal prosecution against Donald Trump, and the upcoming Supreme Court case is a civil attempt to remove Trump from state ballots. Further, the appeals court’s findings and explanations in Tuesday’s ruling are not binding on the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, the appeals ruling described the president as an “officer.” There is an open legal question – being argued Thursday before the Supreme Court – over whether the presidency is an “office… under the United States” and whether the presidency is an “officer,” as described in the insurrectionist ban.
The appeals ruling stated:
“It would be a striking paradox if the President, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’ were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity.” “Former President Trump’s alleged efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election were, if proven, an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.” "We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter."
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