Trump immediately vows appeal after D.C. Circuit Court panel rejects his claim of presidential immunity from prosecution

 February 7, 2024

A D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, nearly a month after hearing oral arguments, rejected former President Donald Trump's claims of executive immunity as a protection against criminal prosecution for actions that occurred while he still held office.

The decision sets the stage for Trump to file a swift appeal -- which he immediately announced his intent to do -- to either a full empaneling of the entire D.C. Circuit Court or, more likely, to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported.

This ruling comes in the federal 2020 election interference case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, which had initially been set to go to trial on March 4 but has been and will remain paused indefinitely until a final resolution is rendered on Trump's immunity claims.

A revealing rejection

The bias against and disdain for the former president by the three-judge D.C. Circuit panel members was plainly evident in their 57-page opinion issued on Tuesday.

Indeed, the manner in which the U.S. justice system as a whole has been flipped upside down in pure enmity against Trump -- and how the foundational presumption of innocence was tossed aside -- was laid bare in a particularly revealing passage in the background section of the ruling.

"At this stage of the prosecution, we assume that the allegations set forth in the Indictment are true," the judges wrote. "We emphasize that whether the Indictment’s allegations are supported by evidence sufficient to sustain convictions must be determined at a later stage of the prosecution."

As for the overarching decision, the judges affirmed the denial of Trump's immunity claims by D.C. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan and explained in the summary, "For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution."

"Scathing" opinion adopts same language as Trump's harshest critics

A CNN analysis of the appeals panel ruling aptly described it as "scathing" in the judge's clear rebuke of the former president and his claims of immunity, as the allegations against him were repeatedly accepted at face value with no skepticism while his assertions were thoroughly parsed and dismantled and ultimately rejected.

The judges also routinely echoed the exact same rhetoric employed by Trump's political opponents and accusers, such as that nobody is "above the law" and that he posed a particular threat to democracy and waged "an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government."

"We conclude that the interest in criminal accountability, held by both the public and the Executive Branch, outweighs the potential risks of chilling Presidential action and permitting vexatious litigation," the judges wrote at one point. "We have balanced former President Trump’s asserted interests in executive immunity against the vital public interests that favor allowing this prosecution to proceed."

Trump fires back, reiterates claims, vows appeal

In response to the ruling, former President Trump let loose with multiple posts on his Truth Social account that sharply criticized the decision and reiterated his assertions of executive immunity and how important it is for the executive branch and a president to function effectively without fear of partisan reprisals.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung also said in a statement, "If immunity is not granted to a President, every future President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party. Without complete immunity, a President of the United States would not be able to properly function!"

"Deranged Jack Smith’s prosecution of President Trump for his Presidential, official acts is unconstitutional under the doctrine of Presidential Immunity and the Separation of Power," he continued. "Prosecuting a President for official acts violates the Constitution and threatens the bedrock of our Republic."

"President Trump respectfully disagrees with the DC Circuit’s decision and will appeal it in order to safeguard the Presidency and the Constitution," the spokesman added.

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