Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (2024)

By Adrienne Vogt and Michelle Shen, CNN

Updated 3:22 PM EST, Tue February 6, 2024

Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (2)

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CNN reporter shares what's next for Trump after presidential immunity ruling

02:27 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • The latest: Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
  • The charges against Trump: The ruling is a major blow to Trump’s key defense thus far in the federal election subversion case brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith. Trump faces four counts from the case, including conspiring to defraud the United States and to obstruct an official proceeding, and he has pleaded not guilty.
  • What happens next: The appeals court has set up a very fast schedule for Trump to ask Supreme Court to block the immunity ruling, giving him until Monday to file an emergency stay request with the court.

Our live coverage of today’s ruling has ended. You can see how the day played out by reading the posts below.

17 Posts

Takeaways from the appeals court ruling denying immunity to Donald Trump

From CNN's Jeremy Herb,Hannah Rabinowitz,Holmes Lybrand,Marshall Cohen,Katelyn PolantzandDevan Cole
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (3)

Former US President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign event in Indianola, Iowa, on January 14.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday said that Donald Trump isnot immune from prosecutionfor alleged crimes he committed during his presidency, flatly rejecting Trump’s arguments that he shouldn’t have to go on trial on federal election subversion charges.

Here are somekey takeaways from Tuesday’s decision:

Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election could be criminal: The judges made it clear that Trump’s actions could be prosecuted in a court of law.

“Vital public interest” of letting trial proceed weighed heavily on the court: The judges cited the public interest in accountability for potential crimes committed by a former president, and how that overcame Trump’s argument that immunity was necessary to protect the institution of the presidency. They flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his criminal indictment would have a “chilling effect” on future administrations.

Trial timing will be up to the Supreme Court: A key part of Trump’slegal strategy has been to delay his criminal cases until after the 2024 election. Now, the trial’s timing will be in the hands of the Supreme Court. If Trump is successful with getting the Supreme Court to hear the appeal, the criminal trial would not resume until after the high court decides what to do with his request for a pause.

Trump gets described as an “officer” in criminal prosecution ruling

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Hannah Rabinowitz, Holmes Lybrand, Marshall Cohen, Katelyn Polantz and Devan Cole

One paragraph in Tuesday’s ruling has caught the attention of legal experts who are also watching the14thAmendment “insurrectionist ban” casethat is being argued at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The cases are entirely separate – this is a criminal prosecution against Donald Trump, and the upcoming Supreme Court case is a civil attempt to remove Trump from state ballots. Further, the appeals court’s findings and explanations in Tuesday’s ruling are not binding on the Supreme Court.

Nonetheless, the appeals ruling refers described the president as an “officer.” There is an open legal question – being argued Thursday before the Supreme Court – over whether the presidency is an “office… under the United States” and whether the presidency is an “officer,” as described in the insurrectionist ban.

The appeals ruling said: “It would be a striking paradox if the President, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’ were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity.”

CNNseniorSupreme Court analyst saysjusticesmay “back away” from taking on Trump case

From CNN's Michelle Shen
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (4)

The sun illuminates the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, in January.

The Supreme Court could “back away” from taking on former President Donald Trump’s appeal due to upcoming cases that are already “very politically charged” in nature, according to CNN’s senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

A federal appeals court in Washington, DC, has given Trump until February 12 to ask the Supreme Court to block their ruling about whether he is immune from criminal prosecution.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it could be several more weeks or months before a decision is made.

The court isalreadyset to hear arguments on Thursday on whether the 14th Amendment would remove Trump from state ballots under the “insurrectionist ban” in the amendment.

Trump responds to appeals court ruling on immunity

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Kristen Holmes
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (5)

Former President Donald Trump attends a press conference in New York on January 11.

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized what he called the “nation-destroying” ruling from the federal appeals court that said Trump is not immunefrom prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results.

Trump, in a Truth Social post, said that “a President of the United States must have Full Immunity in order to properly function and do what has to be done for the good of our Country,” calling for the ruling to be overturned.

“A President will be afraid to act for fear of the opposite Party’s Vicious Retribution after leaving Office,” he posted, saying that “it will become a Political Weapon.”

What the appeals court said: In theopinion, the judges found that if proven, the former president’s efforts to usurp the 2020 presidential election were an “unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.”The judges also flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his criminal indictment would have a “chilling effect” on future presidents.

In rejecting Trump’s immunity arguments, the appeals panel also said the public interest in holding a potentially criminal president accountable outweighed the potential negative impacts on the office of the presidency.

Judges say no president "has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote"

From CNN's Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz, Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (6)

The presidential seal is displayed behind then-President Donald Trump during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, in 2018.

In its ruling that former President Donald Trump does not have presidential immunity in the January 6 case, a federal appeals court said his immunity claims would reject “the most fundamental check on executive power.”

In addition, they said that Trump’s stance “would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches.”

"An unprecedented assault": Judges issue scathing opinion on Trump's behavior in 2020

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (7)

Former US President Donald Trump stands on stage during his primary night rally in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 23.

Throughout their opinion, Judges J. Michelle Childs, Florence Pan and Karen LeCraft Henderson repeatedly eviscerated former President Donald Trump’s behavior after the 2020 presidential election as unpresidential and constituting an assault on an American institutions.

“Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law and he is answerable in court for his conduct,” the panel of judges wrote.

Their scathing opinion describes the former president as using his seat of power to “unlawfully overstay his term as President and to displace his duly elected successor,” all which would violate “generally applicable criminal laws.”

Even his stances in court, the judges wrote, stand in contrast to the principle that all Americans – including former presidents – are subject to the same laws.

Courts can try a former president who faced impeachment proceeding in Congress, appellate judges say

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has made a forceful finding in its opinion that it is the federal courts’ responsibility to handle the criminal prosecution of a former president.

One question that has come up repeatedly in this case is if the court system has the ability to try a former president who faced an impeachment proceeding in Congress, and if they can look at the presidential immunity question before a trial.

On both fronts, the appellate judges said they could.

While a president and even others in the government, like legislators and judges, could be protected from lawsuits, they can be criminally prosecuted, the court said.

Trump campaign says former president will be appealing immunity ruling

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the Waldorf Astoria hotel after attending his hearing at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on January 9.

The Trump 2024 campaign responded to the ruling that former President Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results.

“If immunity is not granted to a President, every future President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party. Without complete immunity, a President of the United States would not be able to properly function!” according to the campaign’s Steven Cheung.

Cheung said Trump would be appealing the decision.

The campaign also issued a fundraising appeal after the ruling.

Appeals court gives Trump until February 12 to ask Supreme Court to block immunity ruling

From CNN's Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz, Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen, John Fritze and Holmes Lybrand
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (9)

A person jogs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 31.

The appeals court has set up a very fast schedule for Donald Trump to ask the Supreme Court to block their ruling rejecting his claims of immunity from criminal prosecution.

The court is giving Trump until February 12 to file an emergency stay request with the Supreme Court, which would stop the clock while his attorneys craft a more substantive appeal on the merits. If he is successful with that, the criminal trial will not resume until after the high court decides what to do with his request for a pause.

If Trump does not appeal the ruling, the case would be sent back to the trial-level court in Washington, DC, as soon as next week for his trial to continue.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s office declined to comment.

White House and Biden campaign decline to weigh in on Trump immunity ruling

From CNN's Arlette Saenz
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (10)

US President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House after arriving in Washington, DC, on Monday, February 5.

The White House and President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign have declined to weigh in on the federal appeals court ruling that former President Donald Trump has no presidential immunity in the January 6case.

It tracks with their strategy thus far to largely steer clear of commenting on Trump’s legal drama. Biden has argued Trump poses a direct threat to democracy, including his actions in the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, but the president has largely refrained from using the twists and turns of the legal cases against him as part of his arguments, in part, to avoid any appearance of political interference.

Biden is scheduled to appear before reportersat 11:45 a.m. ET todayto speak about the bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package.

Read the appeals court's ruling on Trump's presidential immunity

Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The ruling from the three-judge panel was unanimous.

Read the ruling:

Appeals court says it would be "striking paradox" if a president were allowed to defy the law

From CNN's Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz, Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (11)

A court sketch depicts former President Donald Trump, seated right, listening as his attorney John Sauer, standing, speaks before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, January 9.

In the opinion finding that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution, the three appeals court judges found that if proven, the former president’s efforts to usurp the 2020 presidential election were an “unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.”

The judges flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his criminal indictment would have a “chilling effect” on future presidents.

Trump’s attorneys had argued that if future chief executives believed that they could be indicted for their “official acts” as president, they would be more hesitant to act within their role.

In rejecting Trump’s immunity arguments, the appeals panel also said the public interest in holding a potentially criminal president accountable outweighed the potential negative impacts on the office of the presidency.

But the court was clear to explicitly note that they weren’t offering any commentary on the potential implications of prosecuting a sitting president – which didn’t happen in this case.

Some background on the election subversion charges Trump is facing

From CNN's Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz and Katelyn Polantz

Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

Trump faces four counts from special counsel Jack Smith’s election subversion charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States and to obstruct an official proceeding. The former president has pleaded not guilty.

Trump has argued that he was working to “ensure election integrity” as part of his official capacity as president, and therefore he is immune from criminal prosecution for trying to overturn the election results. His lawyers have also asserted that because Trump was acquitted by the Senate during impeachment proceedings, he is protected by double jeopardy and cannot be charged by the Justice Department for the same conduct.

So what happens now? The immunity question is ultimately expected to end up before the Supreme Court, one of several consequential cases the high court will take up related to Trump this year.

Appeals court unanimously rules Trump is not immune from criminal prosecution

From CNN's Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz and Katelyn Polantz
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (12)

Judges J. Michelle Childs, Florence Pan and Karen LeCraft Henderson

The three-judge appeals court panel that issued the ruling Tuesday includes two judges, J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, who were appointed by Joe Biden and one, Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush.

In their unanimous opinion, the appeals court found that former President Donald Trump is not protected from criminal prosecution under the separation of powers clause.

“Here, former President Trump’s actions allegedly violated generally applicable criminal laws, meaning those acts were not properly within the scope of his lawful discretion,” they wrote, meaning that existing case law “provide him no structural immunity from the charges in the Indictment.”

The three appeals court judges said that Trump asked them to find “for the first time that a former President is categorically immune from federal criminal prosecution for any act conceivably within the outer perimeter of his executive responsibility,” they wrote.

Trump does not have immunity from prosecution for 2020 election reversal gambits, federal appeals court rules

From CNN's Devan Cole and Hannah Rabinowitz
Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (13)

Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Sunday, January 21.

Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to reverse the 2020 election results, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The ruling is a major blow to Trump’s key defense thus far in the federal election subversion case brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith. The former president had argued that the conduct Smith charged him over was part of his official duties as president and therefore shield him from criminal liability.

Trump’s team could appeal the ruling directly to the Supreme Court, or first ask for en banc review at the appeals court, meaning the case would be heard again, but this time by the full DC Circuit.

Federal appeals court issues ruling on Trump immunity claims

From CNN's Devan Cole and Hannah Rabinowitz

A federal appeals court has issued a ruling on Donald Trump’s claims of absolute presidential immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed while in office.

CNN is reviewing the decision from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Key takeaways from the January appeals court hearing on Trump’s immunity claims

From CNN's Jeremy Herb,Marshall CohenandDevan Cole

Afederal appeals panelexpressed deep skepticism early Januarytoward Donald Trump’s argument that hecan’t be prosecuted for trying to overturnthe 2020 election, raising the potentially extreme implications of absolute presidential immunity.

Trump’s lawyers argued that his federal election subversion indictment should be dismissed because he is immune from prosecution. But the three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit panel questioned whetherthis immunity theory championed by Trump’s lawyerswould allow presidents to sell pardons or even assassinate political opponents.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s teamargued that a president is not above the law, warning that allowing presidential immunity from prosecution wouldopen a “floodgate” and saying that it would be “awfully scary” if there were no criminal mechanism to stop future president’s from usurping the vote and remaining in power.

Still, the judgesalso wondered ifthey evenhave jurisdiction to decide the question of presidential immunity at this point in the case.Trump is scheduled to go on trial in March for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. He has pleaded not guilty.

Trumpchose to attend the hearing – a reminder of the role that his four criminal indictments are playing in his presidential campaign.

The appeals court ruling is likely to set up a showdown over presidential immunity at the Supreme Court.

Here are the key takeaways from the oralarguments.

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Court rules Trump does not have immunity from 2020 election subversion prosecution | CNN Politics (2024)
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