Federal Judge Denies Trump’s Immunity Claim in 2020 Election Case

On Friday, a federal judge rejected the argument made by former President Trump that he is immune in his 2020 election subversion criminal case. The judge, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, also denied his other constitutional defenses.

In a 48-page ruling, Judge Chutkan stated, “Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass. Former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability.” She added, “Defendant may be subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office.”

Trump had asserted the immunity defense in October, claiming that all his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are protected by presidential immunity. The former president faces four felony charges in the case, including engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstructing the certification of votes by Congress, and a conspiracy “against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.”

In August, Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge Chutkan ruled, “Nothing in the Constitution’s text or allocation of government powers requires exempting former Presidents from that solemn process.” She emphasized that Trump’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not grant him immunity from criminal accountability.

Trump had also argued that his second impeachment acquittal meant he couldn’t be prosecuted in the case. However, Judge Chutkan rejected this argument, stating, “Neither traditional double jeopardy principles nor the Impeachment Judgment Clause provide that a prosecution following impeachment acquittal violates double jeopardy.”

Additionally, she dismissed Trump’s contentions that the indictment violated his due process rights and that the alleged conduct was protected by the First Amendment. Trump claimed that the prosecution criminalized his core political speech, but Judge Chutkan countered, “The First Amendment does not protect speech that is used as an instrument of a crime, and consequently the Indictment does not violate Defendant’s First Amendment rights.


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