“You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place” Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Presidential Immunity Claim in Election Case

© REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque

On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a crucial verdict on former President Donald Trump’s appeal concerning his assertion of “presidential immunity.” The court, in a unanimous 3-0 decision, firmly rejected Trump’s claim, stating that the notion of a President possessing unlimited authority to commit crimes was untenable.

The judgment emphasized that it was beyond the court’s acceptance to endorse the idea that the Executive Branch could infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens to cast their votes and have those votes duly counted. This appeal was a significant part of Trump’s ongoing legal battles, notably following his loss in a lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, where he claimed presidential immunity in a civil context.

The focus of this particular appeal was Trump’s involvement in the federal criminal case related to the 2020 election. The proceedings in this case had been paused for a month as Trump’s legal team sought a “stay” pending the appellate court’s decision, a request expedited by the court at an unusually rapid pace.

“You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place,” Habba said.

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance commented on the urgency and implications of such legal decisions, particularly highlighting past instances where delayed judicial responses resulted in the temporary upholding of unconstitutional actions, such as the use of discriminatory electoral maps in the 2020 midterm elections due to the Supreme Court’s slow ruling in an Alabama gerrymandering case.

Trump has signaled his intention to escalate the matter to the Supreme Court. However, legal experts have speculated that a meticulously articulated appellate court ruling might lead the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal without further review.

As reported by Raw Story on Tuesday, February 6, 2024, Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel and a law professor at NYU, shed light on Trump’s secondary defense. Trump posits that even if presidential immunity applies only to the “outer perimeter” of presidential duties, the actions in question, about his conduct during the 2020 election, do not fall within the scope of his official presidential functions.

In the aftermath of the appellate court’s ruling, Trump’s defense team, including lawyer Alina Habba, initiated a campaign to sway public opinion and potentially influence Supreme Court justices through conservative media outlets. Habba notably invoked the contentious confirmation battles of justices like Brett Kavanaugh, hinting at an expectation of loyalty from those Trump had ardently supported.

Trump’s defense of presidential immunity hinges on the argument that without it, presidents could be subjected to incessant litigation over any conceivable issue, citing President Joe Biden’s immigration policies as an example. However, this interpretation starkly misrepresents the legal standards surrounding presidential immunity, which traditionally safeguards actions taken within the official scope of presidential duties.

The crux of the legal challenge against Trump centers on his efforts to contest the 2020 election results, actions deemed to be in service of his reelection campaign rather than presidential duties. A pivotal aspect of the case against Trump is the evidence from his advisors and allies, who testified that despite being aware of his electoral defeat, Trump persisted in his efforts to challenge the outcome, complicating his legal defense by suggesting a duty to combat alleged election fraud.

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