Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution in his election interference case in Washington, a federal judge ruled Friday, knocking down the Republican’s bid to derail the case charging him with plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision tees up a legal fight over the scope of presidential power that could ultimately reach the U.S Supreme Court. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing in the case, is expected to quickly appeal to fight what his lawyers have characterized as an unsettled legal question.
In her ruling, Chutkan said “former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability.”
“Defendant may be subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office,” she wrote.
Trump’s legal team had argued that the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in March, should be dismissed because the 2024 Republican presidential primary front-runner is shielded from prosecution for actions he took while fulfilling his duties as president. They assert that the actions detailed in the indictment — including pressing state officials on the administration of elections — cut to the core of Trump’s responsibilities as commander in chief.
The Supreme Court has held that presidents are immune from civil liability for actions related to their official duties, but the justices have never grappled with the question of whether that immunity extends to criminal prosecution.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has said there nothing in the Constitution, or in court precedent, to support the idea that a former president cannot be prosecuted for criminal conduct committed while in the White House.
“The defendant is not above the law. He is subject to the federal criminal laws like more than 330 million other Americans, including Members of Congress, federal judges, and everyday citizens,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
It’s one of four criminal cases Trump is facing while he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024. Smith has separately charged Trump in Florida with illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. Trump is also charged in Georgia with conspiring to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden. And he faces charges in New York related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign.
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