The outcome of these debates has enormous ramifications, both for the landmark criminal case against Trump and for the broader, and legally untested, question of whether an ex-president can be prosecuted for acts committed at the White House. It will also likely pave the way for further appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, who declined a request for intervention last month but could still get involved later.
A quick decision is crucial for special counsel Jack Smith and his team, who are eager to see the case – now on hold pending appeal – go to trial before the November election. But Trump’s lawyers, in addition to seeking to have the case thrown out, hope to benefit from a lengthy appeals process that could delay the trial well beyond its scheduled date. Start date March 4including potentially until after the elections.
He is already signaling that he could use this appearance to present himself as the victim of a politicized justice system. While there is no evidence that President Joe Biden had any influence on the matter, Trump’s argument could resonate with Republican voters in Iowa as they prepare to launch the presidential nomination process.
“Of course I was entitled, as President of the United States and Commander in Chief, to immunity,” he wrote in a social media post, adding: “I was looking for voter fraud and I found it, which is my obligation to do.” , and otherwise lead our country.
Former presidents enjoy broad immunity from prosecution for actions taken in the course of their official White House duties. But because no former president before Trump has ever been indicted, courts have never considered whether that protection extends to criminal prosecution.
Trump’s lawyers insist that is the case, arguing that courts have no authority to review a president’s official actions and decisions and that the prosecution of their client represents a dramatic departure from more of two centuries of American history that would open the door to future “politically motivated prosecutions.” “case. They filed a similar motion Monday in another criminal case against Trump in Georgia.
“Immunity from criminal prosecution would be particularly dangerous when, as here, the former president engaged in criminal conduct aimed at overturning the results of a presidential election in order to remain in office beyond the allotted term,” Smith’s team wrote in a brief statement. .
“A president who illegally seeks to retain power through criminal means unchecked by possible criminal prosecution could jeopardize both the presidency itself and the very foundations of our system of democratic governance,” they said. added.
Prosecutors say that if Trump’s view of the law were accepted, a president could get away with signing a lucrative government contract in exchange for a bribe; asking the FBI director to plant incriminating evidence on a political enemy; or sell nuclear secrets to a foreign adversary.
The case is being argued in the United States Court of Appeals for the Washington Circuit before Judges J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both appointed by President Joe Biden, and Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed to the bench by former President George HW Bush.
It’s unclear how soon the committee will make its decision, although it has indicated it intends to work quickly. The justices required prosecutors and defense attorneys to submit their briefs in rapid succession last month, including setting filing deadlines of Saturday.
The call is vital to Trump’s broader strategy of trying to delay the election subversion case until after the November election, when a victory could allow him to order the Justice Department to drop the charges or even to ask for forgiveness for himself. He faces three other criminal cases, in state and federal court, although the Washington case is scheduled to go to trial first.
Trump’s lawyers also cited a constitutional provision prohibiting double jeopardy to argue for immunity, saying the case involves similar conduct for which he was previously impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate.
Smith’s team said there was no bar to prosecutors charging someone who was impeached and acquitted by Congress, and noted that their charges are not the same as those facing Trump faced in his impeachment proceedings.
Richer reported from Boston.
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