Trump not immune from prosecution in 2020 election interference case, US appeal court rules as criminal trial looms – Earn Charter

A federal appeals panel ruled on Tuesday that Donald Trump can face trial on charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting his claims that he is immune from prosecution, bringing the former US president a step closer to an unprecedented criminal trial.

The decision marks the second time in as many months judges have spurned Trump’s immunity arguments and held that he can be prosecuted for actions undertaken while in the White House and in the run-up to January 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

Any [immunity] that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s claim that he cannot be prosecuted because the allegations relate to his official responsibilities as president.

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defences of any other criminal defendant,” the unanimous panel wrote.

“But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

A spokesman for Trump said the former president would appeal.

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The ruling rebuffs his attempt to avoid a trial on charges that he undermined American democracy and the transfer of power, even as he consolidates his position as the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump’s lawyers argued that former presidents were entitled to sweeping legal protections and could not be criminally prosecuted for official actions unless first impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate.

Trump was impeached twice by the House, but each time Senate Republicans cast sufficient votes to acquit him of the charges.

Judges homed in on the broad nature of Trump’s claim at a January 9 hearing, questioning a Trump lawyer over whether even a president who ordered military commandos to assassinate a political rival could escape criminal prosecution without initial action by Congress.

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US former president Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 2020 election charges

US former president Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 2020 election charges

Trump has repeatedly voiced his immunity claim on the campaign trail and social media, saying in a January 18 post, “ALL PRESIDENTS MUST HAVE COMPLETE & TOTAL PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY, OR THE AUTHORITY & DECISIVENESS OF A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WILL BE STRIPPED & GONE FOREVER.”

The indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith accuses Trump of using false claims of voter fraud to pressure state lawmakers, Justice Department officials and then-Vice-President Mike Pence to thwart the certification of the election results.

It is one of four criminal cases facing Trump and one of two alleging interference in the 2020 election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts and accused prosecutors of a politically motivated effort to damage his campaign.

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The immunity argument was previously rejected by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in December, prompting Trump to appeal.

Even if Trump’s argument is not accepted by courts, the appeal is likely to achieve his aim of delaying the scheduled March 4 trial and potentially pushing it until after the November election. The case is on hold while Trump appeals.

If Trump wins the election, he could seek to pardon himself or direct the Justice Department to shut down the case.

Trump can ask the full DC Circuit court and the US Supreme Court to review the ruling, potentially leading to weeks or months of additional delay.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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