Washington: Former President Donald Trump suffered a major setback as an appeals court has ruled that he is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results.
The ruling is a major blow to Trump’s key defence thus far in the federal election subversion case brought against him by Department of Justice’s special counsel Jack Smith. Trump faces four counts from the case, including conspiring to defraud the US and to obstruct an official proceeding, and he has pleaded not guilty.
The appeals court has set up a very fast schedule for Trump to ask the Supreme Court to block the immunity ruling, giving him until Monday to file an emergency stay request with the court.
Judges ruled no president “has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote”.
In its ruling that the former President does not have presidential immunity in the January 6 case, the appeals court said his immunity claims would reject “the most fundamental check on executive power”.
Trump’s stance “would collapse our system by separating powers placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches including the judiciary and the executive. Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the President, the Congress could not legislate, the Executive could not prosecute and the Judiciary could not review,” the appeals court said.
Throughout their opinion, Judges J. Michelle Childs, Florence Pan and Karen LeCraft Henderson repeatedly eviscerated Trump’s behaviour after the 2020 presidential election as unpresidential and constituting an assault on American institutions. “Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law and he is answerable in court for his conduct,” the panel of judges wrote.
“Former President Trump’s alleged efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election were, if proven, an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government,” the panel wrote.
“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” they said.