Landmark Ruling: D.C. Circuit Unanimously Dismisses Trump’s Claim of Presidential Immunity

A unanimous federal appeals court panel today rejected Donald Trump’s presidential immunity claim, stating that this immunity does not protect him from prosecution for attempting to prevent Joe Biden from taking office after the 2020 election. This decision is not unexpected, as all three judges shared doubts regarding Trump’s claim during oral arguments last month. The court’s reasoning is important, especially since Trump will likely seek Supreme Court review. Special Counsel Jack Smith has indicted Trump on three conspiracy counts and one count of obstructing the congressional certification of Biden’s victory. These charges stem from Trump’s attempts to recruit state and federal officials to reverse the election results. Trump argues that he should be immune from prosecution based on the principle of separation of powers, but the D.C. Circuit disagrees, stating that this principle requires that the case be allowed to proceed. The court further notes that the separation of powers doctrine may protect lawful discretionary acts, but not bar a former President from federal criminal prosecution for every official act. The court emphasizes that “the President does not enjoy absolute immunity from criminal subpoenas issued by state and federal prosecutors and may be compelled by the courts to respond.” The D.C. Circuit believes the risk of former Presidents being unduly harassed by meritless federal criminal prosecutions is slight, and this risk must be weighed against the public’s fundamental interest in the enforcement of criminal laws. Overall, the court’s decision has upheld the principle that no one, including former Presidents, is above the law.