Washington, D.C. – Legal experts are praising the line of questioning from Judge Florence Pan during a hearing to determine whether former President Donald Trump can use presidential immunity to dismiss a federal election case against him. Judge Pan, who was nominated by President Joe Biden, was part of a three-judge panel that heard arguments regarding Trump’s claim of immunity from federal prosecution in relation to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation.
Trump, the leading candidate in the Republican presidential primary, has pleaded not guilty to four charges related to allegations of attempting to overturn the 2020 election. He is appealing to have the case dismissed, arguing that his actions investigating false voter fraud claims were part of his presidential duties and therefore protected by absolute immunity.
Federal prosecutors have countered that committing crimes does not fall under a president’s official duties, and Trump cannot continue to cite presidential immunity now that he is no longer in office. During the hearing, Trump’s attorney, D. John Sauer, argued that a sitting president can only be prosecuted for crimes committed while in office if they are first impeached and convicted by Congress. Trump was impeached for the second time in 2021 but was later acquitted by the Senate.
Judge Pan’s questioning of Sauer exposed a potential flaw in his argument. She asked whether, under his position, a sitting president could order the assassination of a political rival without prosecution, as long as they were not convicted by the Senate. This hypothetical scenario raised questions about Sauer’s reasoning and the potential for a president to evade prosecution by resigning before impeachment.
Legal analyst George Conway described Judge Pan’s interrogation as a “brilliant” trap for Sauer. He commended her for exposing the implications and inconsistencies in Sauer’s argument. Conway noted that Pan relentlessly pursued an answer from Sauer, demonstrating her experience as a prosecutor and the strength of her points.
Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, also criticized Sauer’s position and highlighted Judge Pan’s effective dismantling of his arguments. She explained that once Sauer conceded that absolute immunity does not exist, the debate shifted from whether Trump could be prosecuted to when he could be prosecuted. Vance praised Judge Pan for targeting the weaknesses in Sauer’s claim and undercutting his assertion that all presidential acts are immune from prosecution.
Trump has voiced concerns about the possibility of facing prosecution for acts committed while in office. On social media platform Truth Social, he argued that allowing former presidents to be prosecuted would “open the floodgates” for political attacks. However, legal experts assert that the courts must have the authority to assess a president’s actions and hold them accountable for any potential criminal conduct.
In conclusion, Judge Florence Pan’s insightful questioning during the hearing on Trump’s claim of presidential immunity has garnered praise from legal experts. Her probing inquiry challenged the arguments put forth by Trump’s attorney, exposing potential flaws and inconsistencies. As the case continues, the debate over presidential immunity and the accountability of former presidents for their actions remains a significant legal and political issue.