Despite attempts to claim otherwise, Donald Trump’s demand for absolute immunity for any criminal acts committed while president goes far beyond the qualified immunity currently extended to police officers and other government officials. A recent Politifact article (where I and other legal scholars were interviewed) explains why:
If you don’t want to take my word for the difference between the two, you should at least heed that of Joanna Schwartz, who is probably the nation’s leading expert on qualified immunity.
As both she and I have argued in the past, qualified immunity is a badly flawed court-created doctrine that the Supreme Court would do well to reverse. But I must acknowledge QI is at least endorsed by current Supreme Court precedent. The absolute immunity Trump seeks has no such precedent behind it, and would be even more egregious than QI is. It goes much further, and would allow presidents to escape liability for even the most serious crimes. Moreover, unlike a cop on the beat, a president cannot readily argue that he has to make quick decisions on the fly with no opportunity to seek legal advice.
No government official deserves such sweeping immunity. And certainly not the one with the greatest potential to abuse it. Even if you trust presidents of your preferred party with that kind of power, ask yourself if you have similar faith in presidents of the opposing party.