Supreme Court Rules Trump Has Partial Immunity for Actions as President in 2020 Election Case

Jimmy Williams

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Donald Trump has partial immunity from criminal prosecution for certain actions he took as president while attempting to overturn the 2020 election results. This 6-3 decision, divided along ideological lines, complicates efforts to bring Trump to trial in Washington on charges of engaging in fraud to maintain power.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, stated that former presidents have “absolute” immunity from criminal prosecution for actions falling within their “core constitutional powers.” He clarified, “There is no immunity for unofficial acts.” This means that while some central allegations against Trump, such as using the Justice Department to promote false claims of voter fraud, are dismissed, many issues remain unresolved.

The case now returns to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who must differentiate between Trump’s official presidential acts and his actions as a candidate. This process could delay the trial for months, likely pushing it past Election Day. Trump celebrated the ruling, calling it a “Big win for our Constitution and democracy, proud to be an American!” on Truth Social.

The Supreme Court’s opinion leaves ambiguity about Trump’s immunity for acts related to his office but not explicitly covered by presidential powers. This includes Trump’s interactions with then-Vice President Mike Pence before January 6, 2021, where he pressured Pence to refuse to certify the election results, which Pence rejected as illegal. The special counsel has alleged that this pressure campaign was part of a broad and illegal abuse of power. The court also left it to Chutkan to decide on Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials to reverse certified election results.

The court’s decision highlights a deep ideological divide. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, leading the dissent, called the ruling “utterly indefensible” and warned of its “disastrous consequences for the Presidency and for our democracy.” She argued that the decision effectively places the President above the law.

“The majority’s project will have disastrous consequences for the Presidency and for our democracy,” Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. She added, “In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law. The majority’s single-minded fixation on the President’s need for boldness and dispatch ignores the countervailing need for accountability and restraint. The Framers were not so single-minded.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote a separate dissent, stating, “The majority of my colleagues seems to have put their trust in our Court’s ability to prevent Presidents from becoming Kings through case-by-case application of the indeterminate standards of their new Presidential accountability paradigm. I fear that they are wrong.”

This ruling follows another Supreme Court decision four months ago that rejected state-level efforts to bar Trump from the ballot as an insurrectionist. Roberts emphasized that the immunity ruling applies to all former presidents, regardless of their politics. “That immunity applies equally to all occupants of the Oval Office, regardless of politics, policy, or party,” he wrote.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, while part of the majority, wrote a concurrence suggesting that evidence of a president’s official acts could still be used in prosecutions. “The Constitution does not require blinding juries to the circumstances surrounding conduct for which Presidents can be held liable,” Barrett wrote.

The next steps are now in the hands of Judge Chutkan, who indicated she would give Trump’s defense a minimum of three months to prepare for trial if allowed to proceed. If she acts quickly, a trial could theoretically start in October, but it would likely extend beyond Election Day on November 5. Special counsel Jack Smith’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

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