Appeals Court: Trump Not Immune In Jan. 6 Case

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that former President and current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump does not have broad immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes related to the Jan. 2020 election.

The unanimous ruling of the D.C. Circuit panel, delivered in a 57-page decision, handed a big win to Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith. The special counsel is planning to go to trial this year with Trump over federal felony charges related to allegations the former president attempted to overturn the 2020 election results.

The court ruled that the government can prosecute any former president for crimes alleged against them while in office. The judges wrote that “the risk that former Presidents will be unduly harassed by meritless federal criminal prosecutions appears slight.”

“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 D.C. Circuit panel wrote in the decision. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

The judges weighed the chances that Trump committed a crime against the possibility of weakening the office of the presidency and inviting frivolous, politicized charges: “We conclude that the interest in criminal accountability, held by both the public and the Executive Branch, outweighs the potential risks of chilling Presidential action and permitting vexatious litigation.”

“Instead of inhibiting the President’s lawful discretionary action, the prospect of federal criminal liability might serve as a structural benefit to deter possible abuses of power and criminal behavior,” the panel wrote.

“If immunity is not granted to a President, every future President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party,” Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump said in a statement. “Without complete immunity, a President of the United States would not be able to properly function!”

Trump will most likely appeal the decision to the entire D.C. Circuit or the Supreme Court. Analysts and commentators expect a Supreme Court case ahead.