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Trump Granted Immunity By The Supreme Court?

On Thursday, the Supreme Court seemed inclined to grant some level of immunity to former President Trump, despite expressing doubts about the broad scope of presidential immunity his lawyers proposed, particularly in extreme scenarios like an attempted coup or the assassination of a political rival.

The justices, from both conservative and liberal backgrounds, challenged Trump’s legal team with various hypotheticals to ascertain the limits of presidential immunity. Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the possibility of prosecuting a president for accepting bribes related to ambassadorial appointments. Meanwhile, liberal Justice Elena Kagan pondered if a president who sold nuclear secrets could claim immunity, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor considered whether ordering the military against a political rival could be shielded by such immunity.

D. John Sauer, representing Trump, suggested that these scenarios might still fall under presidential immunity, indicating a broad interpretation of the doctrine.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson highlighted concerns about the potential for the presidency to become a haven for unlawful acts, reflecting on what disincentives exist to prevent the Oval Office from becoming a “seat of criminal activity.”

Trump’s assertion centers on absolute immunity for actions taken while in office, extending even after a president leaves office. His defense argues that this covers his actions related to the 2020 election’s aftermath.

The implications of the court’s potential agreement with Trump are significant, possibly affecting several of his criminal indictments and delaying legal proceedings past the upcoming presidential election.

Special counsel Jack Smith, present at the hearing, countered that only sitting presidents should have immunity from prosecution. Michael Dreeben, a counselor on Smith’s team, warned that accepting Trump’s broad immunity claim could exempt acts of bribery, sedition, and even murder from prosecution.

As the justices debated for over two hours, they considered what constitutes official actions that could be immune versus personal actions that would not. This discussion was framed broadly about presidential powers and not solely focused on Trump, indicating the profound implications for the presidency and the nation’s future. Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted the significant stakes involved in defining these boundaries.

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