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Trump asks Supreme Court for broad immunity from criminal charges in election interference case

Former president Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court to grant him total immunity from criminal charges he’s facing in his federal election interference case, saying it was integral to the future of the US presidency to do so.

In a brief submitted to the court on Tuesday, Mr Trump’s legal team outlined the former president’s argument and reasoning in asking for immunity, claiming the president requires protection from criminal charges in order to carry out the powers and responsibilities of the job.

“A denial of criminal immunity would incapacitate every future President with de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn him to years of post-office trauma at the hands of his political opponents,” Mr Trump’s legal team wrote.

They claimed the president has inherent immunity thanks to the Executive Vesting Clause, which awards the president specific powers, and the separation of powers laid out in the US Consitution. They also cited the ruling in the 1982 Supreme Court case Nixon v Fitzgerald which declared presidents immune from civil lawsuits for conduct within the “outer perimeter” of their authority.

It is the same argument that Mr Trump’s team made to an appeals court in Washington DC earlier this year, which the court later rejected. 

Now Mr Trump is taking his argument to the Supreme Court, which will have to decide whether a former president can enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for “conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office” and to what extent.

The court will hear oral arguments on 25 April.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump salutes at a campaign rally Saturday, March 16, 2024,

(AP)

The former president’s immunity defence arose from the criminal indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith last year. Mr Smith is accusing Mr Trump of trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in his favour by knowingly making false claims of election fraud and pressuring state officials to approve fraudulent electors.

Mr Trump believes he is immune from criminal prosecution because he says he was acting in his “official” capacity as president.

But Mr Smith’s team disputes that, previously arguing that Mr Trump is not immune from prosecution because his actions were not part of presidential responsibilities and thus not an “official” act. Mr Smith has yet to submit his brief to the Supreme Court; he has until 8 April.

But Mr Trump’s team suggested that should the Supreme Court reject his immunity defence they could return to a lower court for further factfinding – like determining if Mr Trump’s actions were considered “official acts”.

So far, two federal courts have sided with Mr Smith.


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