Trump does not have presidential immunity in January 6 case, federal appeals court rules
Feb 6, 2024, 8:21 AM | Updated: 8:40 am
(Shannon Stapleton/Pool Photo via AP, File)
The ruling is a major blow to Trump’s key defense thus far in the federal election subversion case brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith. The former president had argued that the conduct Smith charged him over was part of his official duties as president and therefore shield him from criminal liability.
“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution,” the court wrote.
The ruling from the three-judge panel was unanimous. The three-judge panel who issued the ruling Tuesday includes two judges, J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, who were appointed by Joe Biden and one, Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush.
Trump’s team could appeal the ruling directly to the Supreme Court, or first ask for en banc review at the appeals court, meaning the case would be heard again, but this time by the full DC Circuit.
Trump faces four counts from Smith’s election subversion charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States and to obstruct an official proceeding. The former president has pleaded not guilty.
Trump has argued that he was working to “ensure election integrity” as part of his official capacity as president, and therefore he is immune from criminal prosecution for trying to overturn the election results. His lawyers have also asserted that because Trump was acquitted by the Senate during impeachment proceedings, he is protected by double jeopardy and cannot be charged by the Justice Department for the same conduct.
The immunity question is ultimately expected to end up before the Supreme Court, one of several consequential cases the high court will take up related to Trump this year.
The district judge overseeing Trump’s criminal case in DC rejected Trump’s immunity arguments in December, writing that being president does not “confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.” Trump quickly appealed that decision to the DC Circuit, which agreed to expedite its review of the matter.
This story is breaking and will be updated.