WASHINGTON: In a significant development, a federal appeals court has ruled that former US President Donald Trump can be charged for allegedly plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
This decision brings Trump one step closer to facing an unprecedented criminal trial.
The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s claim of immunity, stating that the charges against him are not related to his official responsibilities as president.
Statement of Trump’s lawyers
Trump’s lawyers argued that former presidents are protected from criminal prosecution for their official actions unless they have been impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate. However, the court dismissed this argument, highlighting the potential consequences of such broad immunity. During the hearing, the judges questioned whether a president could escape criminal prosecution even if they ordered military commandos to assassinate a political rival without any congressional action.
The indictment, brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, accuses him of pressuring state lawmakers, Justice Department officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct the certification of the election results by using false claims of voter fraud. This is one of four criminal cases Trump is currently facing, with two of them alleging interference in the 2020 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the four felony counts and has accused prosecutors of pursuing a politically motivated agenda against him.
Trump’s immunity argument was previously rejected by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in December, leading him to appeal the decision. Although the appeal may delay the scheduled trial in March, it is uncertain if Trump’s argument will be accepted by the higher courts. In the meantime, the case remains on hold. If he were to win the upcoming election, he could potentially seek a self-pardon or direct the Justice Department to dismiss the case.
Donald has the option to request a review of the ruling by the full D.C. Circuit Court and the US Supreme Court, which could further prolong the legal process. The outcome of this appeal is crucial, as it will determine whether he will face a criminal trial or if the case will be postponed until after the November election.
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