Court arguments suggest Donald Trump's bid for absolute immunity will fail

In a recent hearing, a three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to unanimously reject former President Donald Trump's argument that presidents have "absolute immunity" from criminal prosecution for any acts taken in office unless they are impeached and convicted. The court was considering Trump's appeal to dismiss four felony charges brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith for his actions leading up to the January 6th insurrection.

The court mainly addressed Trump's two main arguments: that presidents have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts taken in office, and that presidents can only be prosecuted if they are first impeached and convicted. The judges, consisting of two Biden appointees and one George H.W. Bush appointee, appeared skeptical of Trump's defense lawyer's arguments.

Judge Florence Pan forced Trump's defense lawyer, D. John Sauer, to take the former president's argument to its logical conclusion by asking if a president who ordered the assassination of a political rival would be subject to criminal prosecution. Sauer offered a "qualified yes" but only if the president is impeached and convicted first. However, Pan pointed out that if the president is not convicted in the Senate, then the answer is no.

Assistant special counsel James Pearce argued that this argument leads to an "extraordinarily frightening future" where a president could order the assassination of a political rival and then resign to avoid impeachment and conviction without facing any consequences. Judge Pan also pressed Sauer on the contradiction inherent in Trump's arguments for immunity.

Throughout the hearing, Sauer clashed with the judges and refused to answer clearly stated questions. It appeared that his arguments were aimed at showing strength to his client rather than convincing the judges.

The Department of Justice has asked the court to issue a ruling within five days of arguments, and Trump's lawyers have reserved the right to appeal any decision. As the 2024 presidential race heats up, the outcome of this case holds significant importance for the future of our democracy.


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