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Supreme Court upholds limited immunity for Trump

The court’s conservative majority – which Trump helped create – found 6-3 that presidents were protected from prosecution for official actions…reports Asian Lite News

The supreme court has ruled that former presidents are entitled to some degree of immunity from criminal prosecution, a major victory for Donald Trump that guts the 2020 election subversion case against him and any prospect of a trial before November.

The court’s conservative majority – which Trump helped create – found 6-3 that presidents were protected from prosecution for official actions that extended to the “outer perimeter” of his office, but could face charges for unofficial conduct.

Trump is accused of overseeing a sprawling effort to subvert the 2020 election, including two counts of conspiring to obstruct the certification of the election results, conspiring to defraud the government, and conspiring to disenfranchise voters.

Among the accusations: Trump spread false claims of election fraud, plotted to recruit fake slates of electors, pressured US justice department officials to open sham investigations into election fraud, and pressured his vice-president, Mike Pence, to obstruct Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s win.

To determine whether Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election results were official acts, the supreme court remanded the case back to the presiding US district judge Tanya Chutkan, who will have to review the indictment line by line.

The review will be done under a three-part test: whether particular conduct is a core presidential function that carries absolute immunity, an official act within the outer perimeter of the presidency that carries presumptive immunity, or an unofficial act that carries no immunity.

To defeat presumptive immunity, the opinion said, Chutkan would have to decide if charging Trump would “pose any dangers of intrusion on the authority and functions of the Executive Branch”.

The court left the analysis up to Chutkan. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, preemptively determined that Trump’s interactions with justice department officials were official acts because they are part of the executive branch and answer to the president.

Roberts also determined that Trump’s interactions with Pence were presumptively immune, since the president discussing responsibilities with the vice-president was an instance of official conduct. The burden was on prosecutors to prove otherwise, Roberts wrote.

And on the matter of Trump’s remarks on January 6, Roberts wrote that they too were probably protected, since presidential addresses were an integral function of the office. But the opinion also allowed that in Trump’s case, it may be appropriate to categorize his speech as that of a candidate for office.

The most damaging part of the ruling for prosecutors will be the prohibition of using any conduct determined to be official acts as evidence at trial. Prosecutors had hoped they could introduce official acts – even if they weren’t charged – as evidence to show Trump’s intent.

The ruling was one of the last handed down by the supreme court this term. In waiting until the end, the conservative majority played into Trump’s benefit and legal strategy of trying to delay any trial as much as possible.

The effect of the ruling to block a prompt trial, after the court moved quickly to keep Trump on the ballot in March, has already ignited fierce criticism by liberals and others who believe Trump’s case should be resolved before voters cast their ballots in the forthcoming election.

Trump’s legal strategy for all of his federal criminal cases – he also faces charges in Florida for illegally retaining classified documents – has been to delay them until after the election, in the hope that he will be re-elected and can appoint as attorney general a loyalist who would drop the charges.

As the calendar now stands, a trial in Trump’s election subversion case cannot start until 20 September at the earliest, since Trump’s lawyers have 88 days left on the clock to prepare a defense after the case was automatically frozen when they launched the immunity appeal.

Biden administration’s break from Trump opens doors for India in Iran and Afghanistan (credit: Indian Narrative)

Biden criticises ruling  

President Joe Biden has criticised the “dangerous precedent” set by the Supreme Court’s ruling granting former and future presidents immunity from prosecution for official acts saying it gives the executive office, and possibly Donald Trump, the power “to do whatever he pleases, whenever he wants to do it.”

Biden said that the court had done “a terrible disservice” to the people of this nation by effectively blocking any chance that Trump could see trial related to the January 6 riot.

The US Supreme Court on Monday (local time) delivered its ruling, in which the 6-3 majority ruled that Trump may claim immunity from criminal prosecution for some of the actions he took as president before leaving office, likely delaying his federal election subversion trial related to his actions on January 6 even further.

He quoted and concurred with liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent against the ruling that the majority decision means that “the President is now a king above law with fear for our democracy” and she urged the American people should dissent too. “I dissent,” Biden added.

“Each, each of us is equal before the law. No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” Biden said during his live remarks from the White House.

Biden added, “With today’s Supreme Court decision and presidential immunity that fundamentally changed for all practical purposes, today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what the president can do.”

Biden once again blamed Trump for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and said the American people deserve to have an answer in the courts about what happened then, before they vote in November’s election.

“And it’s a dangerous precedent because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States,” Biden said.

Criticising the apex court’s decision, Biden said that the decision undermines the rule of law of this country.  

“This decision today, has continued the court’s attack in recent years on a wide range of long-established legal principles in our nation. From gutting voting rights and civil rights to taking away a woman’s right to choose, to today’s decision that undermines the rule of law of this nation,” he said.

ALSO READ: Trump demands release of imprisoned Jan. 6 rioters

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