Supreme Court victory: Trump has absolute immunity for official acts

By Bob Unruh

President Donald J. Trump walks from the Oval Office to the South Lawn of White House to board Marine One for Joint Base Andrews Maryland Friday, June 5, 2020, to begin his trip to Bangor, Maine. (Official White House photo by Tia Dufour)

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that President Donald Trump has “absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority.”

There also is “presumptive immunity” for official acts. But there’s no immunity for “unofficial acts.”

The ruling results from a federal grand jury, assembled as part of the Democrat party’s “lawfare” against Trump, that indicted Trump on four counts for events that happened during his presidency.

It was after the 2020 election, which was influenced by interference by both the FBI and the CIA, that Trump protested the outcome.

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He also went to court to protest what he called the stolen election.

In fact, evidence now shows that the CIA knew that a letter from ex-intel officers claiming the Biden family scandals revealed in Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation was, in fact, a lie. Further, the FBI warned publications to suppress accurate reporting on that issue. Later polling showed those actions probably cost Trump the election and handed the White House to the now-“diminished” Joe Biden.

“Under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power entitles a former president to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority,” the 6-3 opinion said.

“And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts.”

The Democrats’ lawfare against Trump, including this case, had set up a scenario that could have resulted in criminal charges for any former president, such as Barack Obama, for his decisions to dispatch drone attacks that killed innocent civilians.

Further, a Republican administration subsequent to Biden’s time in office also could have filed criminal charges against Biden for virtually any of his actions.

The ruling said, “This case is the first criminal prosecution in our nation’s history of a former president for actions taken during his presidency. Determining whether and under what circumstances such a prosecution may proceed requires careful assessment of the scope of presidential power under the Constitution. The nature of that power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office. At least with respect to the president’s exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute. As for his remaining official actions, he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity. Article II of the Constitution vests ‘executive Power’ in ‘a President of the United States of America.’

“The president has duties of ‘unrivaled gravity and breadth.’ His authority to act necessarily ‘stem[s] either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself.'”

The court already has ruled, the opinion said, that “the president’s authority is sometimes ‘conclusive and preclusive.’ When the president exercises such authority, Congress cannot act on, and courts cannot examine, the president’s actions. It follows that an Act of Congress—either a specific one targeted at the president or a generally applicable one—may not criminalize the president’s actions within his exclusive constitutional power. Neither may the courts adjudicate a criminal prosecution that examines such presidential actions. The court thus concludes that the president is absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for conduct within his exclusive sphere of constitutional authority. ”

The Democrats’ lawfare against Trump in this case claimed he was involved in “election interference.”

Special counsel Jack Smith, whose own appointment is under review as it might have been made illegally, accused Trump of four felonies regarding Trump’s protests of the election results, the result of undue influence, that gave the White House to Biden.

Trump’s legal team said all his actions were part of his official duties as president.

The result is that the opinion destroys the timeline that the Democrats’ demanded to put Trump on trial for these charges before the 2024 election.

The crux of the fight was described earlier by Mark Brnovich, former attorney general in Arizona, who said, “I think the court recognizes that it would be a dangerous precedent if future presidents can prosecute their political rivals.

“They will set a limiting principle because, under the prosecutor’s theory, future prosecutors would have a lot of power to persecute their political rivals,” Brnovich said.

The decision, by Chief Justice John Roberts, was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, with Thomas and Barrett filing concurring opinions. The leftist trio on the bench, Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson, endorsed the Democrats’ lawfare against Trump.

The opinion said, “Criminally prosecuting a president for official conduct undoubtedly poses a far greater threat of intrusion on the authority and functions of the Executive Branch than simply seeking evidence in his possession. The danger is greater than what led the court to recognize absolute presidential immunity from civil damages liability—that the president would be chilled from taking the ‘bold and unhesitating action’ required of an independent Executive. Although the president might be exposed to fewer criminal prosecutions than civil damages suits, the threat of trial, judgment, and imprisonment is a far greater deterrent and plainly more likely to distort presidential decision-making than the potential payment of civil damages. The hesitation to execute the duties of his office fearlessly and fairly that might result when a president is making decisions under pa pall of potential prosecution.'”

The question now remains exactly what is official and unofficial, the ruling said.

“When the president acts pursuant to ‘constitutional and statutory authority,’ he takes official action to perform the functions of his office. Determining whether an action is covered by immunity thus begins with assessing the president’s authority to take that action. But the breadth of the president’s ‘discretionary responsibilities under the Constitution and laws of the United States frequently makes it ‘difficult to determine which of [his] innumerable ‘functions’ encompassed a particular action.’ The immunity the court has recognized therefore extends to the ‘outer perimeter’ of the president’s official responsibilities, covering actions so long as they are ‘not manifestly or palpably beyond [his] authority.'”

And it noted, “Nor may courts deem an action unofficial merely because it allegedly violates a generally applicable law. Otherwise, presidents would be subject to trial on ‘every allegation that an action was unlawful,’ depriving immunity of its intended effect.”

For example, the court said, “The indictment alleges that as part of their conspiracy to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, Trump and his co-conspirators attempted to leverage the Justice Department’s power and authority to convince certain states to replace their legitimate electors with Trump’s fraudulent slates of electors. According to the indictment, Trump met with the acting attorney general and other senior Justice Department and White House officials to discuss investigating purported election fraud and sending a letter from the Department to those states regarding such fraud. The indictment further alleges that after the acting attorney general resisted Trump’s requests, Trump repeatedly threatened to replace him. The government does not dispute that the indictment’s allegations regarding the Justice Department involve Trump’s use of official power. The allegations in fact plainly implicate Trump’s ‘conclusive and preclusive’ authority. The Executive Branch has ‘exclusive authority and absolute discretion’ to decide which crimes to investigate and prosecute, including with respect to allegations of election crime.”

It continues, “The indictment’s allegations that the requested investigations were shams or proposed for an improper purpose do not divest the president of exclusive authority over the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Justice Department and its officials. Because the president cannot be prosecuted for conduct within his exclusive constitutional authority, Trump is absolutely immune from prosecution for the alleged conduct involving his discussions with Justice Department officials.”

Likewise with the claims Trump pressured Vice President Pence over the dispute, for which he has presumptive immunity.

Such discussions actually are engaging in “official conduct.”

The lower courts now will be tasked with a determination what of Trump’s actions are official, and which, if any, are not official.

House Judiciary Committee chief Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said, “Hyper-partisan prosecutors like Jack Smith cannot weaponize the rule of law to go after the administration’s chief political rival, and we hope that the left will stop its attacks on President Trump and uphold democratic norms. The Judiciary Committee will continue to oversee dangerous lawfare tactics in our judicial system.”

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