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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Politics

Supreme Court immunity ruling sends most of Trump case back to lower courts

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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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The Supreme Court ruled Monday, July 1, that presidents are entitled to absolute immunity from prosecution for actions that fall within their constitutional duties and presumptive immunity for official acts. However, justices ruled there is no immunity for unofficial acts. 

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The 6-3 decision was split along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion and was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh; Justice Barrett joined in part. Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissent which Justices Kagan and Jackson joined.

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This case was brought forward by former President Donald Trump in an attempt to throw out special counsel Jack Smith’s four count indictment. Trump is charged with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He moved to dismiss the case, arguing he had presidential immunity. 

The Supreme Court’s decision does not dismiss the case. Instead, the justices are sending most of it back to the district court to determine whether the alleged actions are official or private. The court outlined how some of the former president’s conduct should be categorized. 

For instance, the justices ruled that Trump is immune from prosecution for allegedly pressuring the acting attorney general to open an investigation into voter fraud.

A district court will have to decide whether Trump is immune for attempting to pressure then-Vice President Pence to reject certain state’s electoral votes during the certification process.

“The indictment’s allegations that Trump attempted to pressure the Vice President to take particular acts in connection with his role at the certification proceeding thus involve official conduct, and Trump is at least presumptively immune from prosecution for such conduct,” the justices wrote.

“The question then becomes whether that presumption of immunity is rebutted under the circumstances. It is the Government’s burden to rebut the presumption of immunity.” 

However, Trump’s lawyers admitted during oral arguments that other actions alleged in the indictment are private. So the following line of questioning from Justice Barrett may prove consequential.

Barrett: “Petitioner turned to a private attorney who was willing to spread knowingly false claims of election fraud to spearhead his challenges to the election results, private?” 

Trump Attorney D. John Sauer: “As alleged, I mean we dispute the allegation, but that sounds private.”

Barrett: “Petitioner conspired with another private attorney who caused the filing in court of a verification signed by petitioner that contained false allegations to support a challenge.” 

Sauer “That also sounds private.” 

“Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “It makes a mockery of the principle … that no man is above the law. Relying on little more than its own misguided wisdom about the need for ‘bold and unhesitating action’ by the president, the Court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more.”

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Ray Bogan: The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Presidents are entitled to absolute immunity from prosecution for actions that fall within their constitutional duties and presumptive immunity for official acts. However, they ruled there is no immunity for unofficial acts. 

 

The 6-3 decision was split along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion and was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh; Justice Barrett joined in part. Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissent which Justices Kagan and Jackson joined. 

 

This case was brought forward by former President Donald Trump in an attempt to throw out Special Counsel Jack Smith’s four count indictment. Trump is charged with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He moved to dismiss the case, arguing he had presidential immunity. 

 

The Supreme Court’s decision does not dismiss the case. Instead, the Justices are sending most of it back to the District Court to determine whether the alleged actions are official or private. The court outlined how some of the former president’s conduct should be categorized. 

 

For instance, they ruled that Trump is immune from prosecution for allegedly pressuring the acting Attorney General to open an investigation into voter fraud.

 

They wrote that a district court will have to decide whether Trump is immune for attempting to pressure then-Vice President Pence to reject certain state’s electoral votes during the certification process.

 

The justices wrote: “The indictment’s allegations that Trump attempted to pressure the Vice President to take particular acts in connection with his role at the certification proceeding thus involve official conduct, and Trump is at least presumptively immune from prosecution for such conduct.” 

 

“The question then becomes whether that presumption of immunity is rebutted under the circumstances. It is the Government’s burden to rebut the presumption of immunity.” 

 

But Trump’s lawyers admitted during oral arguments that other actions alleged in the indictment are private. So this line of questioning from Justice Barrett may prove consequential.

 

Barrett:  “Petitioner turned to a private attorney who was willing to spread knowingly false claims of election fraud to spearhead his challenges to the election results, private?” 

Trump Attorney D. John Sauer “As alleged, I mean we dispute the allegation, but that sounds private,”   

Barrett: “Petitioner conspired with another private attorney who caused the filing in court of a verification signed by petitioner that contained false allegations to support a challenge,” 

Sauer “That also sounds private,” 

Ray Bogan: In the dissent Justice Sotomayor wrote: “Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency. It makes a mockery of the principle…that no man is above the law. Relying on little more than its own misguided wisdom about the need for ‘bold and unhesitating action’ by the President, the Court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more.”