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Trump’s Immunity Claim in Election Subversion Case Met with Skepticism at Appeals Court Hearing

HeadlineJan 10, 2024

Judges for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed skepticism as they heard arguments from Donald Trump’s legal team Tuesday over his 2020 election subversion case. Trump’s lawyers claimed he should receive immunity from criminal charges, arguing a president can only be charged with a crime if they’ve already been impeached and convicted by Congress. This is Judge Florence Pan questioning attorney D. John Sauer as Trump looked on.

Judge Florence Pan: “Could a president order SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That’s an official act, an order to SEAL Team Six?”

D. John Sauer: “He would have to be, and would speedily be, you know, impeached and convicted before the criminal prosecution.”

Judge Florence Pan: “But if he weren’t — but if he weren’t, there would be no criminal prosecution, no criminal liability for that?”

D. John Sauer: “Chief Justice’s opinion, Marbury against Madison, and our Constitution, and the plain language of the impeachment judgment clause all clearly presuppose that what the founders were concerned about was not” —

Judge Florence Pan: “I asked you a yes-or-no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached, could he be subject to criminal prosecution?”

D. John Sauer: “If he were impeached and convicted first.”

Following the hearing, Trump warned of “bedlam” if the Justice Department’s case against him damages his chances at reelection. Trump also warned he’d go after Biden, if reelected.

Donald Trump: “He has to be careful, because that can happen to him also. The next president, whoever that may be, has a statute of limitations that go back six years. That’s a long time, Joe. You have to be very careful.”

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