Biden Says Democracy Is at Risk in This Election After Supreme Court's Decision on Presidential Immunity

In a speech on July 1, Biden vowed to respect the traditional limits of presidential power, adding that the responsibility is now on voters to carefully pick a leader who won't abuse the office

<p>Andrew Harnik/Getty</p> Joe Biden in 2024

Andrew Harnik/Getty

Joe Biden in 2024

President Joe Biden is expressing concerns for the future of democracy.

In a speech on Monday, July 1, the president spoke about the Supreme Court's recent decision on presidential immunity, which determined that U.S. presidents cannot be prosecuted for any official acts taken during their White House tenure.

The case stemmed from a question about whether former President Donald Trump, 78, could be tried on four felony counts for allegedly attempting to overturn the 2020 election results.

"The President enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official," the court's syllabus said. "But under our system of separated powers, the President may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers, and he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for his official acts."

Related: Supreme Court Says Donald Trump Is Partially Immune from Prosecution: What That Means for His Jan. 6 Charges

<p>Anna Moneymaker/Getty</p> Donald Trump speaks while visiting Capitol Hill on June 13, 2024

Anna Moneymaker/Getty

Donald Trump speaks while visiting Capitol Hill on June 13, 2024

In a dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the court's new precedent makes every president "a king above the law," and irrevocably shifts "the relationship between the President and the people he serves."

"When [a president] uses his official powers in any way, under the majority's reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution," Sotomayor wrote. "Orders the Navy's Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune."

Related: Sonia Sotomayor Pens Fearful Dissent in Trump Immunity Case, Saying Decision Makes Him ‘King Above the Law’

<p>Jonathan Ernst - Pool/Getty</p> Joe Biden in 2023

Jonathan Ernst - Pool/Getty

Joe Biden in 2023

Biden, 81, said on Monday that he will continue to respect the traditional limits of the presidency as he encouraged voters to carefully consider their options in November.

"This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America," Biden began his speech, citing that the president does not hold absolute power. "Each of us is equal before the law. No one — no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States."

"With today’s Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity, that fundamentally changed," he continued. "For all practical purposes, today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do."

Related: Donald Trump Seeks to Overturn New York Conviction After Supreme Court's Immunity Ruling

<p>Mandel NGAN / AFP</p> Joe Biden in 2024

Mandel NGAN / AFP

Joe Biden in 2024

Biden called it a "dangerous" precedent because the power of the presidential office "will no longer be constrained by the law," which includes the Supreme Court.

He referenced the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, in which MAGA supporters attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 election results after Trump baselessly claimed that the election was fraudulent.

Related: Shocking Photos of the Violent Riots at the U.S. Capitol

Lawmakers condemned the actions of the insurrection, while Trump made a speech that offered sympathy for those who descended on the Capitol.

"Now the man who sent that mob to the U.S. Capitol is facing potential criminal conviction for what happened that day," Biden said in his speech, referencing the federal election subversion charges at the center of the Supreme Court case. "And the American people deserve to have an answer in the courts before the upcoming election. The public has a right to know the answer about what happened on January 6th before they ask to vote again this year."

Related: Joe Biden Addresses Presidential Debate Performance: 'Don't Speak as Smoothly as I Used to'

<p>Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</p> Joe Biden in 2024

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden in 2024

The president said that the American people must "do what the Court should have been willing to do but would not": determine whether Trump's actions make him fit to be president.

"Perhaps most importantly, the American people must decide if they want to entrust the president — once again, the presidency to Donald Trump, now knowing he’ll be even more emboldened to do whatever he pleases whenever he wants to do it," he continued.

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Biden concluded his speech by referencing Sotomayor's dissenting opinion in Trump v. United States on Monday, which was co-signed by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

"I concur with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent today," Biden said. "Here’s what she said. She said, 'In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law. With fear for our democracy, I dissent,' end of quote."

"So should the American people dissent. I dissent," he added. "May God bless you all. And may God help preserve our democracy."

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