US federal court rejects Trump’s argument that he is immune from 2020 election lawsuits

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A federal appeals panel ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump can be tried on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting the former president’s claims that he was immune from prosecution .

The unanimous and highly anticipated decision by a bipartisan panel marks the second time in as many months that the justices have rejected Trump’s immunity arguments and ruled that he can be prosecuted for actions taken at the White House and in the period preceding January 6. , 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

“We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law forever,” the judges wrote. The panel rejected the argument that presidents would face an increased risk of prosecution in the future.

The trial date in Trump’s federal election interference case carries huge political ramifications, with the leading Republican candidate in the primary hoping to delay it until after the Nov. 5 election. If Trump defeats President Joe Biden, he could likely try to use his position as head of the executive branch to order a new attorney general to dismiss federal cases or he could potentially seek clemency, plunging the country into unprecedented territory .

The appeals court took center stage in the immunity dispute after the Supreme Court said last month it was staying at least temporarily out of the debate, rejecting special prosecutor Jack Smith’s request to take up the matter quickly and render a rapid decision.

The legally untested question before the court was whether former presidents could be sued after leaving office for actions taken at the White House related to their official duties.

The Supreme Court on Thursday will consider another legal question stemming from a failed attempt to cling to power after his 2020 election loss to Biden. Colorado courts ruled that Trump was ineligible to appear on state ballots because he engaged in insurrection as defined by Article 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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Separation of powers would “collapse” (judges)

Trump’s lawyers argued before the federal panel that his post-election efforts, including harassing his Vice President Mike Pence into refusing to certify the election results, all fell within the ‘outer perimeter’ official acts of a president.

But Smith’s team said no such immunity existed in the U.S. Constitution or in previous cases and that, in any case, Trump’s actions were not part of his official duties.

Read the appeal committee’s decision:

“At bottom, former President Trump’s position would fail our system of separate powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches,” the three justices wrote.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, rejected Trump’s arguments in a Dec. 1 opinion that the office of president “does not confer a lifetime pass to get out of jail free.”

Trump’s lawyers then appealed to the Washington DC appeals court, but Smith asked the Supreme Court to intervene first, hoping to get a quick, final decision and preserve the date of the trial of March 4. The High Court rejected the application, leaving the matter to the Court of Appeal.

Chutkan postponed the March 4 date last week.

The case was argued before Judges Florence Pan and J. Michelle Childs, appointed by Biden, a Democrat, and Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed to the bench by President George HW Bush, a Republican.

Likely call

The justices gave Trump until February 12 to ask the Supreme Court to stay its decision.

It is not guaranteed that the Supreme Court justices will take up the case before their current terms end in June, if at all. He could also ask the full appeals court to hear the arguments.

The immunity issue could potentially affect a 13-count indictment Trump faces in Georgia for trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden in that state.

Trump’s potential presidential immunity does not come into play for a trial scheduled for May 20 on allegations that he illegally retained government documents after leaving the presidency in early 2021. But the pace of pretrial rulings has put off in question the maintenance of this start date.

On March 25, he will face trial in New York on charges of falsifying business records to conceal secret payments related to alleged extramarital affairs that he did not want made public during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The legal peril comes with considerable costs for Trump and his supporters, based on federal election campaign spending data.

Trump is the first president to face criminal charges.

Bill Clinton, in his final days in office, reached an agreement that ensured he would not be subject to prosecution, for giving false testimony under oath about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton paid a fine and had his law license suspended.

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