Key Immunity Showdown as Trump Returns to Court

( – Former President Trump voluntarily appeared at a Court of Appeals hearing in Washington D.C. on January 9 regarding whether he is immune from prosecution for actions taken in his official capacity as President of the United States. Former solicitor general for the state of Missouri John Sauer represented Trump during the hearing. He argued that the Impeachment Judgment Clause of the Constitution made clear that a president must be convicted after impeachment before the Department of Justice (DOJ) could bring charges. The three-judge panel consisted of two appointees of President Biden and one appointee of former President George W. Bush.

Judge Florence Pan, a Biden appointee, presented Sauer with a multitude of hypothetical situations, asking if he believed a president would be immune from prosecution in each scenario. Users on social media instantly reacted to Pan asking Sauer if a president could be criminally charged for ordering members of Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent. Sauer reiterated his argument that the Constitution’s Impeachment Judgment Clause required a congressional impeachment and conviction. Sauer also told the judges that the Constitution shielded the president from being criminally charged if acquitted of the same charges by the Senate, even if he had immunity from prosecution.

If the judges determine that he indeed has presidential immunity, the charges levied against him by the DOJ will be dropped. If they rule in favor of the DOJ, Trump will undoubtedly appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Smith has already suffered one setback in his attempt to go to trial by March 4 after the Supreme Court declined his request to take up the matter before the Court of Appeals had a chance to weigh in.

Smith has cautioned against accepting the presidential immunity argument by claiming that it would open up the door for future presidents to use as a way to avoid being held criminally liable. Former United States Attorney General Ed Meese and two others filed an amicus brief with the appeals court, arguing that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s delegation of power to Smith was unconstitutional.

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