During a recent session at the federal appeals court, the attorney representing former President Trump presented a case for his client’s presidential immunity. The argument posited that President Biden is purportedly leveraging his presidential authority to pursue legal action against his political rival and major electoral contender. A panel of judges, which included two individuals appointed by President Biden, heard the arguments from both sides.
Trump’s lawyer, D. John Sauer, asserted that the president enjoys absolute immunity from prosecution, a privilege that extends beyond their term in office. Nonetheless, this assertion was met with skepticism from the bench. Judge Karen Henderson, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush, challenged Sauer’s claim by asserting that the presidential obligation to enforce the law does not grant the president the license to breach criminal laws.
The legal team led by Special Counsel Jack Smith has contended that presidents do not possess absolute immunity and that Trump’s purported actions are beyond the remit of his official presidential duties. They argue that former presidents should not be exempt from legal proceedings, drawing on the principles of separation of powers, as well as on constitutional framework, historical context, judicial precedents, and doctrines concerning immunity. Furthermore, they underscore the extraordinary nature of the accusations against Trump, asserting that his actions threatened democracy and the integrity of the electoral process.
Judge Henderson pressed Smith’s prosecutor, James Pearce, on the potential consequences of the court’s decision. Pearce assured the court that this case would not lead to a flood of vindictive prosecutions against former presidents. He argued that failing to hold Trump accountable for his alleged crimes would create a frightening future for the country.
Sauer, however, pushed back, warning that prosecuting Trump would set a dangerous precedent and open the floodgates for cycles of recrimination. He pointed out that Trump is currently the chief political opponent of the Biden administration and that his prosecution is politically motivated.
Trump expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation, stating that it is unfair for the Biden administration to prosecute a political opponent. He criticized the administration for losing in the polls and demographic categories. Trump emphasized the importance of presidential immunity, maintaining that he did nothing wrong and that the case against him was a rigged attempt to undermine democracy.
In August, Trump pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to Smith’s investigation into election interference and the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. The charges against him include conspiracy to obstructing an official proceeding, defrauding the United States, an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court has opted not to expedite Special Counsel Jack Smith’s appeal concerning the issue of immunity, deciding to let the case move through the usual procedures of the federal appeals court. Trump’s legal team has recommended that the court dismiss Smith’s request for a hastened evaluation.