Special Counsel Jack Smith Urges Supreme Court to Reject Trump’s Immunity Claim

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By journalsofus.com




cnn

Special prosecutor Jack Smith on Monday urged the Supreme Court to reject Donald Trump’s claims of broad immunity and denying the former president any opportunity to delay a trial accused of attempting to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s position, Smith told the court, has no basis in the Constitution, the nation’s history or Americans’ understanding that presidents are not above the law. Even if the Supreme Court rules that former presidents are entitled to some form of immunity, Smith said, at least some of Trump’s actions were private conduct — far removed from “official acts” — and could be prosecuted.

“The Framers never supported criminal immunity for a former president, and every president from the founding era to the modern era knew that after leaving office they faced potential criminal liability for official acts,” Smith told the court.

Smith’s filing came in what has become the most closely watched case of the Supreme Court’s current term. A broad ruling in Trump’s favor could undermine not only the special counsel’s election subversion case, but also a litany of other criminal charges pending against him.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 25 and a decision is expected in July. Trump’s written response to Smith is due next week.

Smith sought to dismiss Trump’s argument that if there is a limited form of immunity for former presidents, that would require lower courts to review how that immunity could apply in Trump’s case. If the majority of the judges went that route, the trial could be significantly delayed.

But the special counsel claimed that many of Trump’s actions were private. The Constitution, he said, does not give the president a role in certifying the election of his successor. So Trump’s efforts, Smith added, were part of “a private scheme with private actors to achieve a private end: the petitioner’s effort to remain in power through fraud.”

Trump presented his own written opening arguments last month, arguing that future presidents would be vulnerable to “de facto blackmail and extortion while in office” if the court denied him immunity. Previous presidents, he said, could have been accused of all kinds of controversial actions they took while in office.

Smith rejected that position in his latest report.

“The effective functioning of the presidency does not require that a former president be immune from liability for these alleged violations of federal criminal law,” Smith wrote on Monday. “To the contrary, a fundamental principle of our constitutional order is that no person is above the law, including the president.”

In his filing last month, the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee had also proposed an alternative route for the justices that would help him achieve a political goal of delaying a trial until after the November election if they were unwilling to accept his theory. maximalist of presidential immunity. .

In that scenario, the court could send the case back to lower courts for further proceedings — a move that would delay the trial for months — to determine whether any partial theory of immunity would apply in your case.

But Smith seemed eager to steer the court away from that outcome. Instead, he said that if the Supreme Court determines that former presidents are entitled to some immunity, a trial could begin focusing on Trump’s private actions.

“Even if the court were inclined to recognize some immunity for the official acts of a former president, it should send him to trial because the indictment alleges substantial private conduct in service of the petitioner’s private objective,” Smith told the Supreme Court.

Trump’s “use of official power was simply an additional means to achieve a private objective – perpetuating his rule – that is actionable based on private conduct,” the special counsel argued.

Trump’s claim that former presidents should have immunity to avoid political retaliation when they leave office has been rejected by two lower federal courts. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit unanimously rejected Trump’s position in February.

Smith also took aim at an earlier argument by Trump about whether the laws he was accused of violating applied to former presidents.

Trump “suggests that unless a criminal statute expressly names the president, the statute does not apply,” Smith said. “That radical suggestion, which would free the president from virtually every criminal law – including crimes such as bribery, murder, treason and sedition – is baseless.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

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