The federal appeals court has rejected Donald Trump’s assertion of immunity from prosecution for alleged criminal acts he committed as president during his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The court ruled that, for the purpose of this criminal case, Trump has become “citizen Trump” with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant, and that any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer applies. This decision opens the door for further legal proceedings against Trump, who is facing multiple criminal prosecutions while remaining the presumptive front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
In response to the ruling, Trump’s legal team is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to prevent the trial from proceeding as scheduled. However, the Supreme Court could make a quick decision on whether to hear the case and potentially fast-track any ruling. Special counsel Jack Smith had urged the court to move quickly in order to keep the trial on schedule, amid concerns that a potential Trump election victory could put him in a position to dismiss the charges or even pardon himself. The case is currently on hold while the appeals process plays out, and Trump’s lawyers have pointed to a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that endorsed presidential immunity from civil lawsuits as part of their defense.
The legal battle raises key questions about whether a former president can be prosecuted for criminal acts committed while in office, as Trump’s team has argued that any prosecution is prohibited because he was not first convicted in impeachment proceedings. However, Smith’s team maintains that there is no broad immunity that prevents former presidents from being prosecuted for criminal acts committed in office, and that fraudulent attempts to thwart the transfer of power should not be considered official acts. These legal debates will continue to unfold as the case progresses through the judicial system.