Trump sweeping immunity claim rejected by US appeals court

Judges homed in on the broad nature of Trump’s claim at a January 9 hearing, questioning a Trump lawyer over whether even a president who ordered military commandos to assassinate a political rival could escape criminal prosecution without initial action by Congress.


The panel wrote in its ruling that giving Trump immunity in this case would give presidents “unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralise the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and implementation of election results”.

Trump has repeatedly voiced his immunity claim on the campaign trail and social media, saying in a January 18 post all in caps, “All presidents must have complete & total presidential immunity, or the authority & decisiveness of a president of the united states will be stripped & gone forever”.

The indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith accuses Trump of using false claims of voter fraud to pressure state representatives, Justice Department officials and then-vice president Mike Pence to thwart the certification of the election results. It is one of four criminal cases involving Trump and one of two alleging interference in the 2020 election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts and accused prosecutors of a politically motivated effort to damage his campaign.

The immunity argument was previously rejected by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in December, prompting Trump to appeal.

If Trump wins the election, he could seek to pardon himself or direct the Justice Department to shut down the case.

Trump can ask the full DC Circuit court and the US Supreme Court to review the ruling, potentially leading to weeks or months of additional delay.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan Senate deal on border enforcement measures and Ukraine aid collpased as Republicans withdrew support despite President Joe Biden urging Congress to stand up to Trump.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the deal was dead.

“It looks to me and to most of our members that we have no real chance here to make a law,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters.

It was a rapid turn of events that showed McConnell’s slipping control of his Republican conference, Trump’s growing influence, and Biden’s ability only to look on as a cornerstone of his foreign policy – halting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance into Europe – crumbled in Congress.

Biden laid blame for the bill’s demise squarely on Trump.

“For the last 24 hours he’s done nothing, I’m told, but reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate and threaten them and try to intimidate them to vote against this proposal,” Biden said. “It looks like they’re caving. Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.”

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