Biden Slams Court Decision on Trump in Effort to Shift Age Focus

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden called on voters to “render a judgment” on Donald Trump, after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to potentially escape prosecution for his role in the Jan. 6 US Capitol riot.

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Biden’s televised remarks on Monday from the White House were in part an effort to divert attention from his debate against Trump. The president’s team believes Biden’s increasingly narrow path to victory relies on focusing the national spotlight on Trump’s behavior and away from concerns about the 81-year-old’s fitness to serve.

“The American people must decide whether Donald Trump’s assault on our democracy on Jan. 6 makes him unfit for public office,” Biden said.

The president compared the court’s ruling to its 2022 decision overturning nationwide abortion rights, and said that offering presidents immunity from prosecution created a “dangerous precedent” that place them “above the law.”

The high court’s decision amounted to a political and legal triumph for Trump, who is now virtually certain to avoid a trial before the November election for plotting to overturn his 2020 loss. It also limited the scope of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution, if the case is ever tried, by ruling Trump cannot face charges over his official acts as president.

Biden’s address was the culmination of a day-long push by Democrats to seize on the issue in hopes of turning the page from the debate debacle. Within minutes of the 6-3 ruling along ideological lines, the Biden campaign and Democrats issued press releases and held calls to draw attention to the Jan. 6 riot, part of the campaign’s post-debate strategy to make the election a binary choice between Biden and Trump, and casting the latter as a threat to democracy.

“The American people must decide they want to entrust, once again, the presidency to Donald Trump, now knowing he’ll be more emboldened to do whatever he pleases whenever he wants to do it,” Biden said.

Biden declined to answer questions from reporters about whether he would remain in the race after concluding his speech.

‘Freaking Insanity’

For Biden, the hope is that voters ultimately decide they’re more concerned about how Trump — unable to be prosecuted for anything the courts deem official acts — would behave in office than the incumbent president’s age and acuity.

“It helps the Biden campaign make the argument,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “Essentially what the court is saying is that the president can argue that he is acting within his official duties and he could get Seal Team Six to take out his political opponent. And that’s freaking insanity.”

Those arguments won’t solve all of Biden’s problems. He must persuade voters who have increasing doubts about whether he can continue as commander-in-chief. A CBS News/YouGov poll taken after the debate found 72% of registered voters do not believe Biden has the mental and cognitive health to serve, up 7 percentage points from earlier in June.

What is virtually certain is that Trump won’t face another trial before election.

“The most important takeaway,” said Cornell University Law School professor Michael Dorf, “is that there is no possibility of a trial before the election.”

Indeed, Trump hailed the court’s decision as a “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY” in a post on his social media website.

Trump remains a felon in the eyes of New York state, a fact Biden’s campaign hammered home to voters. But the Supreme Court’s opinion will only revive Trump’s “Teflon Don” image due to his ability to survive scandals that would have ended other politicians’ careers.

The timing of the court’s ruling was just as consequential as the decision itself.

Trump sought to delay his trial in the election interference case until after November. By taking up Trump’s immunity challenge, debating it for months and then issuing a ruling four months before Election Day, the court delivered the outcome the former president wanted.

Lower courts will now have to decide the bounds of Trump’s immunity as it relates to his efforts to reverse his defeat to Biden in 2020, a process that will almost certainly stretch beyond November.

That means Trump can schedule campaign rallies and fundraisers in an effort to seize on his advantage against Biden following last week’s debate without worrying much about the courts getting in the way.

Rallying Cry

The immunity ruling raises the stakes for Trump’s July 11 sentencing in the New York hush-money case. Judge Juan Merchan now stands to be the only judge to weigh criminal punishment against the presumptive Republican nominee as he campaigns to return to the White House.

Trump faces as many as four years in prison for his convictions in the New York case. The most likely outcome is that any sentence — whether jail, probation or another option — will be stayed pending the outcome of his appeal, which would push the resolution well beyond the election.

Trump has turned his legal woes into a rallying cry, energizing supporters and amassing donations from those who have eagerly bought into his claims of political persecution. The former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., called the ruling “solid” in a post on X but also sought to keep up pressure over the indictments.

“I’m sure the corrupt prosecutors and DC judge will work overtime to continue their lawfare. It’s all they have left,” Trump Jr. said.

But now if Trump defeats Biden, he could direct the Justice Department to dismiss the federal cases against him or pardon himself if he is eventually convicted. That would mean the likelihood of him ever being held legally liable for allegedly seeking to overturn the 2020 election, or his handling of classified documents, is severely diminished.

The court that decided Trump’s immunity was shaped by the former president, who named three justices to the bench. Biden’s allies pointed out that Trump could further expand the conservative majority if he is reelected.

--With assistance from Greg Stohr.

(Updates throughout with Biden remarks)

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