Trump makes argument to Supreme Court about why he deserves presidential immunity

Written by on March 19, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a brief with the Supreme Court making his formal argument for why he should be granted absolute presidential immunity from criminal prosecution — asking the justices to dismiss a four-count federal indictment over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election that he lost.

The high court will hear oral arguments on the matter on April 25.

“The President cannot function, and the Presidency itself cannot retain its vital independence, if the President faces criminal prosecution for official acts once he leaves office,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their opening brief to the high court in U.S. v. Trump.

“Denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future President with de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn him to years of post-office trauma at the hands of political opponents,” they argued. “The threat of future prosecution and imprisonment would become a political cudgel to influence the most sensitive and controversial Presidential decisions, taking away the strength, authority, and decisiveness of the Presidency.”

Similar to arguments made in lower courts, which were unsuccessful, Trump contended that presidential immunity flows from the Constitution’s Executive Vesting Clause and the separation of powers.

While a unanimous appeals court panel resoundingly rejected the claim, Trump again implored the justices to adopt the view that only a president convicted by the Senate following impeachment proceedings could be criminally prosecuted.

“The Constitution authorizes the criminal prosecution of a former President, but it builds in a formidable structural check against politically motivated prosecutions by requiring a majority of the House and a supermajority of the Senate to authorize such a dramatic action,” Trump’s team wrote. “The Founders thus carefully balanced the public interest in ensuring accountability for Presidential wrongdoing against the mortal danger to our system of government presented by political targeting of the Chief Executive.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case further delays Trump’s prosecution. Special counsel Jack Smith brought four charges against Trump over his alleged election subversion in 2020 and on Jan. 6, 2021. The former president has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing.

Smith’s team has been instructed to file their own brief on the matter by April 8.

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