Photo Credit: Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

Supreme Court agrees to hear Donald Trump’s immunity appeal

The Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide if former President Donald Trump can claim presidential immunity over criminal election interference charges. SCOTUS is set to hear arguments the week of April 22nd, but their ruling may take weeks or months. According to the order, the legal question the court will decide is “whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” This puts the current criminal trial on hold, and it may not take place until after the 2024 election.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against Trump on February 6th, claiming that he is no longer President Trump, but citizen Trump. The three-judge panel found that there was no basis for Trump to claim that former presidents have “blanket immunity” over criminal acts committed while in office. The ruling states that “any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

Trump’s lawyers have referred to the Supreme Court case Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982) which grants presidential immunity from civil lawsuits that question the validity of conduct in any action that falls under the “outer perimeter” of presidential duties. His lawyers believe that this should apply to criminal cases as well. They also wrote in their submission to SCOTUS that if Trump is convicted, “such prosecutions will recur and become increasingly common, ushering in destructive cycles of recrimination.”

If Trump wins the 2024 election, he could file to dismiss the charges against himself; if he is already convicted, Trump could potentially pardon himself. Although Trump asserts it is “very unlikely” that he would pardon himself if elected. He asked NBC’s Kristen Welker “What, what did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong. You mean because I challenge an election, they want to put me in jail?”

Before SCOTUS agreed to hear this case, it was likely that Trump would go to trial in May on the charges of criminal election interference, with a verdict possible before the Republican National Convention. Now, that is not the case. Even if SCOTUS rules unanimously against Trump before their session ends in late June or early July, it is unlikely that the criminal trial will take place before Election Day.

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