McConnell argues against presidential immunity as Supreme Court debates it

By Jen Krausz on
 April 26, 2024

The same day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether presidents have immunity from prosecution for official acts they committed while in office, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in an interview with NBC News's "Meet the Press" that he didn't believe in the concept. 

When Kristin Welker asked McConnell if he thought presidents should have immunity for official acts, he said, “Obviously, I don’t think that, but it’s not up to me to make that decision.”

"The president clearly needs some kind of immunity, or he’d be in court all the time," he added. “So, we’ll just see how the Supreme Court deals with it."

Former President Donald Trump's lawyers are pressing the concept of presidential immunity to help with some of his indictments, and argued his case for three hours before the court on Thursday.

McConnell's position

McConnell seems to think Trump did commit some illegal acts while president, but still voted to acquit him during the impeachment in 2021 after January 6's Capitol breach.

At the time of his vote, McConnell said Trump hadn't "gotten away with anything yet" and was liable for what he did while in office.

“We’re gonna find out, aren’t we? I mean, the Supreme Court is going to deal with that direct issue that I was referring to on Feb. 13, 2021. And I think we’ll find out sometime soon,” he said in the interview.

During the arguments, the justices did not seem to be going for the argument that a president was immune even from an attempted coup, but did seem like they could go for some level of protection from criminal prosecution.

What would happen?

If the court does extend immunity protection to Trump, it would negate many of the criminal charges he now faces.

Some of the charges related to classified documents might still be able to be considered, since they involve alleged actions taken after he left office.

On the one hand, Justice Samuel Alito said presidents could be in a "peculiarly precarious position" if they are at risk of being prosecuted by their successors.

Hmm, sound like a familiar scenario?

That's exactly what is happening to Trump, made obvious by the fact that former (Democrat) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did exactly what Biden's Justice Department accuses Trump of (buying the Steele Dossier with campaign money rather than paying off accusers), but she was never prosecuted for it.

On the other hand, certainly presidents could abuse their immunity if it were absolute. It seems like the court will thread the needle in some fashion, but it wasn't immediately clear what that would look like.

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