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Monday, July 22, 2024

US Supreme Court Hands Trump a Lifeline, Limits Prosecution Scope in Election Interference Case

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WASHINGTON DC, USA – In a landmark decision on Monday, July 1, 2024, the US Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump has immunity for certain actions taken during his presidency, complicating the path for special counsel Jack Smith’s federal election interference case.

The ruling, which rejected Trump’s broad claim of immunity but acknowledged protections for core presidential duties, came in a 6-3 vote along ideological lines.

Big Win for Trump

“Big win for our Constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American,” Trump proclaimed in a post on Truth Social.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, clarified that while Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results will not be dismissed, some actions integral to his presidential duties are immune from prosecution.

This includes his contacts with Justice Department officials and Vice President Mike Pence.

Core Presidential Powers

Roberts emphasised that further proceedings in lower courts are necessary to determine which of Trump’s conduct can be prosecuted.

He noted that actions such as Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department to investigate unfounded election fraud claims and attempts to influence Pence’s certification of the election results fall within presidential immunity.

“The president is not above the law,” Roberts wrote. “But Congress may not criminalize the president’s conduct in carrying out the responsibilities of the executive branch under the Constitution.”

Blistering Dissent

In a forceful dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the decision, arguing that it “makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of government that no man is above the law.”

“The Constitution does not shield a former president from answering for criminal and treasonous acts,” she wrote.

Next Steps

The case will now return to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will review which of Trump’s actions, particularly his interactions with state election officials and other non-federal entities, are protected by immunity.

This includes Trump’s pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reject Biden’s victory.

Prosecutors will also have the opportunity to challenge the notion that Trump’s contacts with Pence are immune from prosecution.

Trial Timeline

Given the Supreme Court’s ruling, the trial is unlikely to conclude before Election Day. Originally projected to start in early October at the earliest, the proceedings could last up to 12 weeks.

Background and Broader Implications

The Supreme Court’s decision follows a February ruling by a federal appeals court that Trump was not immune from prosecution post-presidency.

The case, unprecedented in U.S. history, centers on whether a president can be held accountable for actions within their official duties.

The federal indictment, issued in August, charges Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.

The indictment details Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, culminating in the January 6 Capitol riot.

Despite this ruling, Trump’s legal battles are far from over.

This case is one of four criminal prosecutions he currently faces, highlighting the ongoing legal scrutiny of his actions during and after his presidency.

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