What Will Supreme Court’s Presidential Immunity Decision Mean for Trump Case?

Reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling granting limited immunity to occupants of the Oval Office came swift and strong.

President Biden condemned it as a “dangerous precedent.”

Former President Trump called it a “big win for the Constitution.”

In addition to its historical impact, the ruling also affects an election interference case against Trump.

For the first time in its 235-year history, the court clarified the issue of presidential immunity, ruling 6-3 that presidents have absolute immunity for official acts and presumptive immunity for official actions taken outside the parameter of the explicit duties of the office.

President Trump brought the case to the high court, contending he had absolute immunity from criminal charges based on his official acts as president on January 6, 2021.

“You’re not going to do anything (as president) if you don’t have immunity because otherwise, you’re going to be prosecuted after you leave office,” he said.

A majority of the justices agreed. 

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s opinion: “The nature of presidential power entitles a former president to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority. And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts. There is no immunity for unofficial acts.”

“The court, in a rather complicated way, carved out various levels of immunity that a president might enjoy,” said Claire Wofford, Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of Charleston.

Immediately after the ruling was announced, Trump posted on Truth Social: “Big win for our Constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!”

In an address to the nation on Monday night, President Biden claimed the ruling means there are no limits on what a president can do.

“This is a fundamentally new principle and it’s a dangerous precedent,” he said. “Because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even by the Supreme Court of the United States. The only limits will be self-imposed by the president alone.”

The ruling kicks the January 6th case down to the U.S. federal District Court and it puts the burden on Special Prosecutor Jack Smith to prove the former president acted unofficially and with criminal motivation as a candidate for president.

That will be hard to prove because the Supreme Court said his contacts with the Department of Justice and Vice President Pence to overturn the election took place as official acts within the president’s authority.

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When Trump’s lawyers presented arguments before the court last April, Justice Sonya Sotomayor asked if there should be any limits on presidential actions. “If the president decides his rival is a corrupt person and he orders the military or orders someone else to assassinate him, is that within his official acts for which he can get immunity?”

Justices Kagan and Jackson agreed with Sotomayor voting against the majority’s decision.

In the dissent, Sotomayor wrote: “Today’s decision to grant former presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the presidency. It makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of government, that no man is above the law…the court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more.”

Legal experts agree this unprecedented, historic ruling will have far-reaching implications not only for Donald Trump but for future presidents as well. 
It also means Jack Smith’s January 6th case against the former president will likely be delayed until after the November election.

And President Trump is now citing the ruling in an attempt to overturn his conviction in New York last month, despite those acts being committed before he was president.

WATCH Our LIVE Analysis: Supreme Court Decision on Presidential Immunity

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