U.S. Supreme Court grants Trump broad immunity from prosecution

By CGTN   |    2024-07-03 14:58:20

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Donald Trump cannot be prosecuted for actions that were within his constitutional powers as president, in a landmark decision recognizing for the first time any form of presidential immunity from prosecution.

The justices, in a 6-3 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, threw out a lower court's decision that had rejected Trump's claim of immunity from federal criminal charges involving his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden. The six conservative justices were in the majority, while its three liberal members dissented.

Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Biden, a Democrat, in the November 5 U.S. election, in a 2020 rematch. The Supreme Court's slow handling of the case and its decision to return key questions about the scope of Trump's immunity to the trial judge to resolve make it improbable he will be tried before the election on these charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

"We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office," Roberts wrote.

Immunity for former presidents is "absolute" with respect to their "core constitutional powers," Roberts wrote, and a former president has "at least a presumptive immunity" for "acts within the outer perimeter of his official responsibility," meaning prosecutors face a high legal bar to overcome that presumption.

In remarks at the White House, Biden called the ruling "a dangerous precedent" because the power of the presidency will no longer be constrained by the law.

The ruling could scuttle parts of the special counsel's case as U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan mulls the breadth of Trump's immunity.

In recognizing broad immunity for Trump, Roberts cited the need for a president to "execute the duties of his office fearlessly and fairly" without the threat of prosecution.

"As for a president's unofficial acts," Roberts added, "there is no immunity."

In a social media post, Trump hailed the ruling as a “BIG WIN,” highlighting its importance for the Constitution and democracy.

Trump, 78, is the first former U.S. president to be criminally prosecuted and the first former president convicted of a crime.

The outcome gave Trump much of what he sought but stopped short of allowing absolute immunity for all official acts, as his lawyers had advocated.

Instead, the court specified that actions within the president's "exclusive sphere of constitutional authority" enjoy such a shield, while those taken outside his exclusive powers are only "presumptively immune."

The court found Trump was absolutely immune for conversations with Justice Department officials. Trump is also "presumptively immune" regarding his interactions with Pence, it decided, but returned that and the two other categories to lower courts to determine whether Trump has immunity.

The ruling marked the first time since the nation's 18th-century founding that the Supreme Court has declared that former presidents may be shielded from criminal charges in any instance. The court's conservative majority includes three justices Trump appointed.

U.S. Supreme Court grants Trump broad immunity from prosecution