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Supreme Court affirms absolute immunity for official acts in Trump case, renders Jan. 6 trial before election unlikely

Supreme Court rebuffs Trump's 'absolute' immunity claim, punts on whether his Jan. 6 charges are legit

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that former President Donald Trump enjoys absolute immunity from prosecution for “official acts” during his presidency — without saying whether his alleged 2020 election subversion falls under that.

The nation’s top court instead left it up to the lower courts to decide what constitutes an “official act” by a sitting president.

In a 6 to 3 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the panel stressed that the “president is not above the law,” and that “not everything the President does is official.” All three liberal justices dissented.

The high court’s ruling vacated an earlier decision by a lower court judge rejecting the immunity theory and cleared the way for more appeals by the former president that could set the trial schedule back months or years, if it ever happens.

“Like everyone else, the President is subject to prosecution in his unofficial capacity. But unlike anyone else, the President is a branch of government, and the Constitution vests in him sweeping powers and duties,” Roberts wrote in a lengthy 43-page decision.

“Accounting for that reality—and ensuring that the President may exercise those powers forcefully, as the Framers anticipated he would—does not place him above the law; it preserves the basic structure of the Constitution from which that law derives.

Roberts further stressed that “Congress may not criminalize the President’s conduct in carrying out the responsibilities of the Executive Branch under the Constitution.”

In remanding the matter back to the lower courts for further analysis, Roberts contended that, “It is ultimately the Government’s burden to rebut the presumption of immunity.”

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred while Justice Amy Coney Barrett concurred in part, calling for a more limited version of immunity.

“The President has no authority over state legislatures or their leadership, so it is hard to see how prosecuting him for crimes committed when dealing with the Arizona House Speaker would unconstitutionally intrude on executive power,” she wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned the dissent and was joined by Justices Elana Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“Our Constitution does not shield a former President from answering for criminal and treasonous acts,” she wrote in a blistering dissent.

“Never in the history of our Republic has a President had reason to believe that he would be immune from criminal prosecution if he used the trappings of his office to violate

“Our Constitution does not shield a former President from answering for criminal and treasonous acts,” she wrote in a blistering dissent.

the criminal law,” she added. “With fear for our democracy, I dissent.”

Jackson penned another dissent in which she took aim at the distinction between official and unofficial acts that the majority opinion laid out.

“The official-versus-unofficial act distinction also seems both arbitrary and irrational, for it suggests that the unofficial criminal acts of a President are the only ones worthy of prosecution,” she wrote.

“Quite to the contrary, it is when the President commits crimes using his unparalleled official powers that the risks of abuse and autocracy will be most dire.”


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