Federal Prosecutors Reject Trump’s Immunity Claims in Election Case

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The federal prosecutors who charged former President Donald J. Trump with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election pushed again on Thursday in opposition to one among his central defenses, rejecting his claims that he loved “absolute immunity” from felony prosecution as a result of his indictment arose from actions he took whereas within the White Home.

The prosecutors within the workplace of the particular counsel, Jack Smith, stated Mr. Trump’s expansive bid to say immunity was unsupported by “the Structure’s textual content and construction, historical past and custom, or Supreme Court docket precedent.”

“The defendant will not be above the legislation,” they wrote in a 54-page filing. “He’s topic to the federal felony legal guidelines like greater than 330 million different People, together with members of Congress, federal judges, and on a regular basis residents.”

The court docket papers, filed in Federal District Court docket in Washington, have been a blunt rebuttal of Mr. Trump’s try to have Choose Tanya S. Chutkan, who’s overseeing the case, dismiss the 4 counts he’s dealing with earlier than they go to trial. Although crammed with technical jargon and arcane citations of the Federalist Papers, the federal government’s response to Mr. Trump boiled all the way down to a easy argument: In america, the legislation equally applies to everybody.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys raised the immunity protection two weeks in the past in a sweeping 52-page motion to Choose Chutkan. The movement, amongst different issues, was an audacious effort to reframe the core of Mr. Smith’s indictment by arguing that each one the counts accusing Mr. Trump of attempting to subvert democracy and stay in energy regardless of the desire of the voters have been, in truth, makes an attempt to uphold his presidential obligation to “guarantee election integrity.”

The immunity movement marked the primary — however absolutely not the final — try by Mr. Trump’s authorized group to have the conspiracy fees tossed out earlier than his trial begins in March. These fees accuse him of defrauding america, obstructing the certification of the election and depriving individuals of the correct to have their votes counted.

Within the authorities’s new submitting, James I. Pearce, a prosecutor, scoffed not solely on the notion {that a} former president may very well be immune from prosecution, but additionally at Mr. Trump’s makes an attempt to recast the costs contained within the indictment as efforts to uphold the legislation.

Mr. Pearce rejected the declare that Mr. Trump was performing inside the scope of his “official duties” when he tried to enlist the Justice Division in validating his claims of election fraud or pressured state lawmakers to draft false slates of electors saying he had gained states he really had misplaced.

These strikes and others, Mr. Pearce stated, weren’t associated to Mr. Trump’s position as president, however fairly to his partisan place as a politician looking for re-election.

“The allegations focus principally on the defendant’s actions as a candidate for elective workplace,” Mr. Pearce wrote. “Moreover, the indictment alleges that the defendant acted deceitfully or corruptly to safe a private profit to himself as a presidential candidate, to not perform constitutional obligations entrusted to the presidency.”

The Justice Division has lengthy maintained a coverage that sitting presidents can’t be indicted. However Mr. Trump’s immunity claims sought one thing broader: full safety from felony prosecution for any actions he took whereas he was within the White Home, although he now not holds public workplace.

His attorneys have been drawn to the argument partially as a result of it has by no means been examined within the context of a felony case.

In 1982, the Supreme Court docket dominated by a 5-to-4 margin that former President Richard M. Nixon was completely immune from a civil lawsuit arising from his official actions. However whereas John F. Lauro, the lawyer who wrote Mr. Trump’s preliminary transient, cited that case, Nixon v. Fitzgerald, extensively in his submitting, the reasoning in its majority opinion didn’t handle whether or not presidential actions may very well be prosecuted as crimes.

The claims of government immunity additionally provided Mr. Trump’s authorized group one other benefit: They are often instantly challenged in appellate courts, together with as much as the Supreme Court docket. Whereas these appeals may eat up time, in line with Mr. Trump’s longstanding technique of attempting to delay the case till after the 2024 election, authorized consultants have stated the Supreme Court docket was unlikely to look favorably on the arguments.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys have recommended they could file a handful of different motions attacking the costs within the case, together with makes an attempt to problem every of the three conspiracy counts he faces.

On Friday, they’re scheduled to file papers associated to a protection that they could increase through the trial — the so-called recommendation of counsel protection. That technique would contain Mr. Trump blaming the secure of attorneys advising him after the election for giving him poor authorized recommendation.