US Supreme Court to hear Trump’s immunity claim

Published March 1, 2024
Supporters of Donald Trump gather near Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, ahead of his visit to the US-Mexico border, on Thursday.—AFP
Supporters of Donald Trump gather near Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, ahead of his visit to the US-Mexico border, on Thursday.—AFP

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to hear Donald Trump’s claim that as a former president he is immune from prosecution, further delaying his trial on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington on March 4, but the nation’s highest court scheduled arguments in the high-stakes case for the week of April 22 and said Trump’s federal election interference trial would remain on hold for now.

On the same day, a judge in the state of Illinois ordered the former president stricken off the state’s primary ballot for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot.

Today, both Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden are due to pay dueling visits to the US-Mexico border Thursday as they try to win over voters on immigration, one of the most divisive issues of the presidential election.

Judge orders ex-president excluded from primary ballot in Illinois

The 77-year-old who is currently the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, welcomed the Supreme Court decision to hear the case.

“Without Presidential Immunity, a President will not be able to properly function, or make decisions, in the best interest of the United States of America,” he said in a post on his Truth Social platform.

The Supreme Court said it would address the question of whether a former president has “immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” A ruling is expected by the end of the court’s current term in June.

A three-judge appeals court panel ruled earlier this month that a former president has no immunity from prosecution for actions taken while in the White House.

Trump’s claim to be immune from criminal liability is “unsupported by precedent, history or the text and structure of the Constitution,” the judges said in a unanimous opinion.

“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” they said.

The question of whether a former US president is immune from prosecution is an untested one in American jurisprudence because until Trump, an ex-president had never been charged with a crime.

Illinois primary exclusion

The decision by Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter comes as similar anti-Trump ballot measures have cropped up in several states, including a Colorado ruling now before the US Supreme Court.

The question before the nine US justices is whether Trump, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, is ineligible to appear on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Colorado because he engaged in an insurrection – the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by his supporters.

Earlier this month, the high court signaled it was skeptical of the Colorado ruling.

Trump blasted the Illinois decision as politically motivated and unjust.

“Democrat front-groups continue to attempt to interfere in the election and deny President Trump his rightful place on the ballot,” Trump’s campaign said, vowing to appeal the decision.

Anticipating pushback, the judge in Illinois put her decision on pause until Friday to allow an appeal.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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