UNITED STATES NEWS

Special counsel urging courts to reject Trump’s immunity claims

Dec 30, 2023, 8:00 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Jack Smith urged a federal appeals court Saturday to reject former President Donald Trump’s claims that he is immune from prosecution, saying the suggestion that he cannot be held to account for crimes in office “threatens the democratic and constitutional foundation” of the country.

The filing from Smith’s team was submitted ahead of arguments next month on the legally untested question of whether a former president can be prosecuted for acts taken while in the White House.

Though the matter is now being considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, it’s likely to come again before the Supreme Court, which earlier this month rejected prosecutors’ request for a speedy ruling in their favor holding that Trump can be forced to stand trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The outcome of the dispute is critical for both sides especially since the case has been effectively paused while Trump advances his immunity claims in the appeals court.

Prosecutors are hoping a swift judgment rejecting those arguments will restart the case and keep it on track for trial, currently scheduled for March 4 in federal court in Washington. But Trump’s lawyers stand to benefit from a protracted appeals process that could significantly delay the case and potentially push it beyond the November election.

Trump’s lawyers maintain that the appeals court should order the dismissal of the case, arguing that as a former president he is exempt from prosecution for acts that fell within his official duties as president.

Smith’s team has said no such immunity exists in the Constitution or in case law and that, in any event, the actions that Trump took in his failed effort to cling to power aren’t part of a president’s official responsibilities.

The four-count indictment charges Trump with conspiring to disrupt the certification in Congress of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters motivated by his falsehoods about the election results stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent clash with police. It alleges that he participated in a scheme to enlist slates of fake electors in battleground states who would falsely attest that Trump had won those states and encouraged then-Vice President Mike Pence to thwart the counting of votes.

Those actions, prosecutors wrote, fall well outside a president’s official duties and were intended solely to help him win reelection.

“A President who unlawfully seeks to retain power through criminal means unchecked by potential criminal prosecution could jeopardize both the Presidency itself and the very foundations of our democratic system of government officials to use fraudulent means to thwart the transfer of power and remain in office,” Smith’s team wrote.

In their brief, prosecutors also said that though the presidency plays a “vital role in our constitutional system,” so, too, does the principle of accountability in the event of wrongdoing.

“Rather than vindicating our constitutional framework, the defendant’s sweeping immunity claim threatens to license Presidents to commit crimes to remain in office,” they wrote. “The Founders did not intend and would never have countenanced such a result.”

While Trump’s lawyers have argued that the indictment threatens “the very bedrock of our Republic,” prosecutors say the defense has it backwards.

“It is the defendant’s claim that he cannot be held to answer for the charges that he engaged in an unprecedented effort to retain power through criminal means, despite having lost the election, that threatens the democratic and constitutional foundation of our Republic,” they said.

A three-judge panel is set to hear arguments on Jan. 9. Two of the judges, J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, were appointed by President Joe Biden. The third, Karen LeCraft Henderson, was assigned to the bench by former President George H.W. Bush.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan earlier rejected the immunity arguments, asserting that the office of the presidency does not confer a “’get-out-of-jail free card.” Trump’s lawyers then appealed that decision, prompting Smith to seek to bypass the court and request an expedited decision from the Supreme Court.

The justices last week denied that request without explanation, leaving the matter with the appeals court.

Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions. He is charged in Florida with illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and faces a state prosecution in Georgia that accuses him of trying to subvert that state’s 2020 presidential election and a New York case that accuses him of falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actress.

___

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

United States News

Associated Press

Boaters find $1 million of cocaine floating off Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — Recreational boaters found $1 million worth of cocaine floating in the ocean off the Florida Keys. Samuel Briggs II, the acting chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, wrote about the find in a social media post on X. Briggs posted video Monday night showing the wrapped packages of cocaine being […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Police credit New Yorkers for suspect’s arrest in the rape of a 13-year-old girl

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of a New York City neighborhood were praised for their role in the arrest of an Ecuadorian accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, a crime that the city’s police commissioner said “shocked our entire city.” Christian Geovanny Inga-Landi, 25, was arrested early Tuesday outside a deli in Corona, Queens. He […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

The Ten Commandments must be displayed in Louisiana classrooms under requirement signed into law

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday. The GOP-drafted legislation mandates that a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” be […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Survivors of New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed 7 urge a judge to keep trucker off the road

Relatives and friends of seven motorcyclists who died in a 2019 crash urged New Hampshire officials Wednesday not to allow the trucker back on the state’s roadways. A jury in 2022 found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy not guilty of multiple manslaughter and negligent homicide counts stemming from the June 21, 2019, collision in Randolph that killed seven […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

New York requiring paid break time for moms who need to pump breast milk at work, under new law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York moms returning to work after giving birth will now get paid break time when they need to pump breast milk at their jobs, under a new law that took effect Wednesday. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the law requires employers in the state to provide a half hour of paid […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Cooler temps and rain could help corral blazes that forced thousands to flee New Mexico village

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Air tankers dropped water and red retardant on Wednesday on a pair of growing fires in mountainous New Mexico that killed at least one person, damaged more than 1,400 structures, forced thousands to flee a tourist locale and may now threaten hundreds of firefighters amid high wind risks. Strong wind on […]

17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Special counsel urging courts to reject Trump’s immunity claims