Washington, DC – A federal appeals panel expressed serious doubts regarding former President Donald Trump’s argument that he cannot be prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The panel raised concerns about the far-reaching implications of absolute presidential immunity.
During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers contended that their client’s federal election subversion indictment should be dismissed due to his immunity from prosecution. However, the judges on the panel questioned whether this immunity theory would permit presidents to engage in activities such as selling pardons or even assassinating political opponents.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team argued that no president is above the law. They warned that granting presidential immunity from prosecution would set a dangerous precedent and potentially open a “floodgate” for future presidents to manipulate the electoral process and retain power unlawfully.
Despite their skepticism, the judges also considered whether they had jurisdiction to rule on the issue of presidential immunity at this stage of the case. Trump is scheduled to stand trial in March for his role in attempting to overturn the election, and he has pleaded not guilty. His presence at the hearing served as a reminder of the impact his four criminal indictments are having on his presidential campaign.
It is anticipated that the appeals court ruling will lead to a showdown over presidential immunity at the Supreme Court. While there is no set deadline for the final decision, given the circumstances, it is unlikely that the judges will take an excessive amount of time.
The judges expressed concern over the scope and impact of Trump’s immunity argument. They raised pointed questions about whether his actions after losing the election fell under his presidential duties and whether criminal prosecution could only occur if he was first impeached and convicted by Congress. Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, cast doubt on the idea that Trump was acting within his official duties. She stated, “I think it is paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care of the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate criminal law.” The judges also highlighted the potential danger of allowing presidents to break the law without facing consequences.
Another key point of debate revolved around whether Trump’s impeachment prevents his prosecution. Trump’s attorney argued that a president can only be charged and tried if convicted by the Senate. However, Judge Florence Pan, a nominee of President Joe Biden, challenged this argument, questioning whether it would mean that presidents could face prosecution in certain circumstances. Pan said, “Once you concede that presidents can be prosecuted under some circumstances, your separation of powers argument falls away.”
Trump’s lawyer also warned of the dangerous precedent set by indicting former presidents for actions taken while in office. He argued that such a case could lead to similar prosecutions against other presidents, including Biden, Barack Obama, or George W. Bush. He referred to it as a “Pandora’s box” from which the nation may never recover.
In summary, a federal appeals panel in Washington, DC expressed skepticism about Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The panel raised concerns about the potential consequences of granting absolute presidential immunity and the implications it might have for future presidents. The ruling is expected to set the stage for a Supreme Court showdown on the issue.