"A Rule For The Ages"

John Sauer argues for President Trump on  April 25, 2024

The Supreme Court on Thursday appeared skeptical of a ruling by a federal appeals court that rejected former President Donald Trump’s claim that he has absolute immunity from criminal charges based on his official acts as president.

By Amy Howe (excerpt)

Representing Trump, John Sauer told the justices that without presidential immunity from criminal charges, the “presidency as we know it” will be changed. The “looming threat,” he contended, will “destroy presidential decision making precisely when” the president needs to be bold. And the impact of the court’s decision, he suggested, will have an impact far beyond Trump’s case. He pointed to the prospect, for example, that President Joe Biden could be charged with unlawfully inducing immigrants to enter the United States illegally through his border control policies.

Michael Dreeben, a lawyer from prosecutor Jack Smith’s office, emphasized that the Supreme Court has never recognized absolute criminal immunity for any public official. Trump, he contended, seeks permanent criminal immunity for a president’s official acts unless he has first been impeached and convicted by the Senate.

Justice Kavanaugh worried aloud about the wider impact of the court’s decision. Telling Dreeben that the justices were “writing a rule for the ages,” and that he was “not concerned about this case as much as future ones,”

Justice Gorsuch, who, like Kavanaugh, expressed concern about the use of the law to target political opponents. Emphasizing that virtually all first-term presidents will be concerned about being reelected, he pressed Dreeben on whether his theory would include consideration of a president’s motives.

Dreeben stressed the “layers of protection” available to shield a former president from unwarranted prosecutions, such as the assumption that prosecutors will act in good faith and the need for a grand jury to return an indictment.

The court is expected to issue its decision by the end of June or early July.

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