A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected former President Donald Trump’s claim of presidential immunity as it pertains to his federal election interference case.
“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the judges wrote in their 57-page decision, saying that “Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law and he is answerable in court for his conduct.”
“We reject all three potential bases for immunity both as a categorical defense to federal criminal prosecutions of former Presidents and as applied to this case in particular,” the decision said.
The judges heard arguments in early January on Trump’s efforts to dismiss the case on immunity grounds.
Last week, after waiting nearly a month for the appellate court’s decision, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan postponed the March 4 start date for Trump’s trial.
Trump, who in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a “criminal scheme” to overturn the results of the 2020 election, was seeking the dismissal of the case on the grounds that he has “absolute immunity” from prosecution for actions taken while serving in the nation’s highest office.
The former president, who attended the Jan. 9 hearing in person, has denied all wrongdoing and denounced the election interference charges as “a persecution of a political opponent.”
The appeals court took up the matter after the Supreme Court in December denied special counsel Jack Smith’s request to immediately take up Trump’s claims of immunity, declining to grant a writ of certiorari before judgment — meaning it would allow a federal appeals court to hear the matter first, which is what Trump’s legal team had sought.
Smith had asked the Supreme Court to step in and quickly rule on the issue — a potentially landmark decision that could, for the first time in American history, determine whether a former U.S. president can be prosecuted for actions taken while in office.
The issue may still end up before the Supreme Court, depending on how the appeal plays out.