federal appeals court
on Tuesday unanimously ruled that former President Donald
does not have
related to his efforts to overturn his
In a 57-page ruling, the three-judge bench said it “cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”
“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant… any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution,” the panel ruled.
The Appeals Court is headed by Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, but the three-judge bench that heard Trump’s appeal consisted of Judges Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, both appointed by President Biden, and Karen LeCraft Henderson, appointed by President George H.W. Bush.
Trump is expected to take the case up to the US Supreme Court, which is stacked with three of his appointees, giving conservatives a 6-3 advantage.
The case brought by special prosecutor Jack Smith accuses Trump of using false claims of voter fraud to pressure lawmakers, Justice Department officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence to prevent certification of Biden’s election victory.
Trump’s lawyers argued in the case first brought before district judge Tanya Chutkan that the former president has “absolute immunity” from prosecution, even after he left office, because the charges relate to official acts performed while he was president.
“ALL PRESIDENTS MUST HAVE COMPLETE & TOTAL PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY, OR THE AUTHORITY & DECISIVENESS OF A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WILL BE STRIPPED & GONE FOREVER,” Trump posted on Truth Social last month.
Chutkan had however ruled that “whatever immunities a sitting president may enjoy, the United States has only one chief executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”
The appeals court substantially agreed with the ruling, while also rejecting Trump lawyers’ argument that since he already faced impeachment over the same allegations, he should not stand trial again.
“In light of the very different procedures and purposes associated with impeachment proceedings as compared to criminal proceedings, former President Trump’s reliance on the Double Jeopardy Clause is misplaced,” the panel wrote, adding, “impeachment is not a criminal process and cannot result in criminal punishment.”
Trump political future is now in the hands of the Supreme Court if, as expected, he goes to the last court of appeal. The apex court will first have to decide whether to accept the case or to reject it and allow the appeals court’s ruling to stand.
If it declines to hear the matter, the case will revert to district judge Chutkan, who is expected to move the charges toward trial quickly, possibly concluding it before election day on November 5.
However, if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, then it can either schedule the arguments quickly and hand down a ruling before November 5, or kick the can down the road, till after the election, which, if Trump wins, will allow him to ask the justice department to withdraw the case or pardon himself.