Trump argues immunity protects presidents from ‘de facto blackmail’ in Supreme Court filing

Former President Trump made his pitch to the Supreme Court to toss his election interference case, asking it to reverse lower court decisions that found he has no presidential immunity shielding him from prosecution.

Trump has been turned down by two courts as he’s argued his efforts to stay in power leading up to Jan. 6 were all done within the scope of his role as president, something he argues affords him immunity from the resulting criminal charges.

“A denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future President with de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn him to years of post-office trauma at the hands of political opponents,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the brief.

“That bleak scenario would result in a weak and hollow President, and would thus be ruinous for the American political system as a whole. That vital consideration alone resolves the question presented in favor of dismissal of this case,” the filing states later.

The Supreme Court is set to weigh the matter in an April 25 hearing.

Trump’s team has argued that presidents can only be criminally charged if they are first tried and convicted by the Senate – a reversal of the argument his team made when he was facing his second impeachment following Jan. 6.

“The Clause’s plain language presupposes that an unimpeached and un-convicted President is immune from prosecution,” his attorneys write, citing the impeachment clause of the Constitution.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s response is not yet due, but his team has previously argued the Constitution offers no such protections to former executives.

“Rather than vindicating our constitutional framework, the defendant’s sweeping immunity claim threatens to license Presidents to commit crimes to remain in office,” his team wrote in a December brief with the appeals court.

“Any burdens of post-Presidency criminal liability have minimal impact on the functions of an incumbent and are outweighed by the paramount public interest in upholding the rule of law through federal prosecution.”

Federal District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals both rejected Trump’s motion to dismiss the case based on his immunity arguments.

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the panel for the appeals court wrote in its 57-page decision in February.

“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter. Careful evaluation of these concerns leads us to conclude that there is no functional justification for immunizing former Presidents from federal prosecution in general or for immunizing former President Trump from the specific charges in the Indictment.”

Chutkan similarly said Trump’s status as a former executive offers no protections from criminal prosecution.

“Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass. Former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability,” she wrote in the 48-page ruling.

This story was updated at 4:23 p.m.

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