Home World News Trump has immunity for official acts, US Supreme Court rules

Trump has immunity for official acts, US Supreme Court rules

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The United States Supreme Court has for the first time recognised that former presidents have immunity from prosecution for certain actions taken in office, as it threw out a judicial decision rejecting Donald Trump’s bid to shield himself from criminal charges involving his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss.

The court on Monday ruled 6-3 that while former presidents enjoy immunity for actions they take within their constitutional authority, they do not for actions taken in a private capacity.

The ruling marked the first time since the nation’s 18th-century founding that the Supreme Court has declared that former presidents may be shielded from criminal charges in any instance.

‘Big win’

The decision will boost Trump’s defence against federal charges over his efforts to overturn the 2020 vote, which he lost to President Joe Biden. It could also affect similar state-level election interference charges in Georgia.

Trump was quick to welcome the ruling. “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY. PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN,” the former president wrote in a social media post.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced the landmark decision on behalf of the court’s six-justice conservative majority. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.

The Supreme Court justices argued that enabling the prosecution of former presidents over their official acts in office could open the door for political retribution and despotism.

“The President enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official. The President is not above the law. But Congress may not criminalize the President’s conduct in carrying out the responsibilities of the Executive Branch under the Constitution,” they wrote.

They stressed that the immunity does not apply just to Trump but “to all occupants of the Oval Office, regardless of politics, policy, or party”.

Three of the six justices who backed the ruling were appointed by Trump himself.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor forcefully rejected the majority’s opinion on Monday, arguing that the ruling effectively legalises abuse of power.

“The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution,” she wrote.

“Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.”

Several Democrats decried the top court’s decision on Monday. Progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the ruling an “assault on American democracy”.

Over to lower court

The decision sends the federal election subversion case back to a lower court. The legal proceedings were delayed for months to resolve the immunity questions.

While the top court did not specify whether Trump’s conduct in its entirety around the election was “official” or private, it ruled that his conversations with Justice Department officials are immune from prosecution.

US authorities had accused Trump of using “the power and authority of the Justice Department to conduct sham election crime investigations and to send a letter to the targeted states that falsely claimed that the Justice Department had identified significant concerns that may have impacted the election outcome”.

But the court ruled that Trump is “absolutely immune from prosecution for the alleged conduct involving his discussions with Justice Department officials”.

Assessing whether other actions by Trump are protected by the immunity granted by the Supreme Court’s decision will likely further delay a trial in the case, pushing the proceedings past the presidential election in November, when the defendant is set for a rematch against Biden.

Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna said the judge overseeing the federal elections case will ultimately decide what charges will stand after Monday’s ruling.

“This is going to go back to the judge in the DC District Court, Tanya Chutkan, who will have to go through the charges against Trump line by line to decide what constitutes official actions and what constitutes private actions,” Hanna said.

Democrats paint Trump as a threat to Democracy, citing his efforts to reverse the 2020 elections, which they say culminated in the January 6 Capitol riot by his supporters.

For his part, the former president – who is facing four sets of criminal charges – accuses Biden of weaponising the justice system against him.

Trump is the first former US president to face criminal charges. Late in May, he was found guilty of falsifying business documents in relation to a hush-money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/7/1/us-supreme-court-sends-trump-immunity-case-back-to-lower-court-report

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