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6 Feb, 2024 15:34

Trump not immune from Capitol riot lawsuit – US court

The former president can appeal the three-judge panel ruling to the Supreme Court
Trump not immune from Capitol riot lawsuit – US court

Former US President Donald Trump does not enjoy presidential immunity in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith regarding his alleged attempts to “reverse the 2020 election,” the federal court of appeals in the District of Columbia ruled on Tuesday.

Smith has charged Trump with four counts of “election subversion,” including conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruct an official proceeding – referring to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol. The 45th president has pleaded not guilty and argued for presidential immunity, as he was still in office at the time of the unrest. 

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the three-judge panel said. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

Two of the judges on the panel, J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, were appointed by President Joe Biden. The third, Karen LeCraft Henderson, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

“Prosecuting a President for official acts violates the Constitution and threatens the bedrock of our Republic,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement after the ruling was announced. “President Trump respectfully disagrees with the DC Circuit’s decision and will appeal it in order to safeguard the Presidency and the Constitution.” 

Trump can appeal the ruling to the full DC circuit, or go straight to the US Supreme Court.

Multiple US states changed their election rules in 2020 to allow voting via mail-in ballots, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. The final official results showed Biden winning 81 million votes, the most in US history, as he defeated Trump. 

Trump has challenged the election as “rigged,” pointing to various irregularities in half a dozen states as well as the mail-in ballots that were impossible to audit. The Democrats and most US media have denounced anyone questioning the 2020 vote as an “election denier” and insisted that everything was perfectly legitimate.

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