Charlie Neibergall Associated Press Donald Trump arriving for a political rally Saturday in Clinton, Iowa
Chris Lefkow – Agence France-Presse and Selim Saheb Ettaba – Agence France-Presse in Washington
- United States
Five months after pleading not guilty to attempting to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 election, Donald Trump arrived Tuesday morning at the Washington appeals court hearing his request for criminal immunity as ex-president.
The big favorite in the Republican primaries for the November presidential election is seeking in particular with this hearing to postpone his various criminal trials as late as possible, and in any case after the election.
He arrived shortly after 9 a.m. at the court in the center of the American capital, with his procession of imposing black cars, according to American media.
This court hearing comes as the electoral campaign is fully launched, less than a week before the start of the Republican primaries, Monday in Iowa.
Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will preside over proceedings at her federal trial for her alleged unlawful attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, on December 1 denied her motion for immunity, finding that no text protected a former president against criminal prosecution.
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Donald Trump's lawyers say he has “absolute immunity” for his actions while in the White House. They cite Supreme Court case law from the 1980s regarding civil suits against former President Richard Nixon.
They also argue that he cannot be tried for his maneuvers to overturn the results because of his acquittal in the parliamentary impeachment proceedings against him for the January 6 assault on the Capitol 2021, during which hundreds of his supporters tried to prevent the certification of the victory of his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
In her decision, Judge Chutkan concluded that the Nixon precedent did not apply to criminal proceedings against a former president, and that impeachment proceedings did not constitute a criminal trial.
“The defendant’s four years as commander-in-chief did not confer upon him the divine right of kings to escape the criminal liability to which his fellow citizens are subject,” she asserted.
But his lawyers' appeal suspended the proceedings, which could derail the schedule of this trial which is scheduled to begin on March 4, worried special prosecutor Jack Smith, who is investigating the case .
Supreme Court in reserve
Donald Trump announced Monday on his Truth Social network his intention to attend the hearing on Tuesday before the court of appeal, even though he was not obliged to do so.
“At the very least I have the right to presidential immunity from Biden's trumped-up charges,” he declared, once again justifying his controversial actions by his concern to fight against so-called “electoral fraud”.
Mr. Trump, who pleaded not guilty in this case on August 3, 2023 in Washington, blames his legal troubles on the administration of President Joe Biden, whom he is likely to find on his way in 2024 for a rematch of the election of 2020.
In their written arguments, the prosecutors warn of the dangers that recognizing Donald Trump's immunity would pose to institutions.
“The lack of potential criminal prosecution for a president who illegally seeks to maintain power through criminal means could imperil both the presidency itself and the foundations of our democratic system of government. »
In December, the United States Supreme Court rejected Jack Smith's request for an emergency ruling on this issue, thereby bypassing the traditional appeals process and the delays it entails.
But whatever the decision of the Court of Appeal, in all likelihood the parties found in the wrong will appeal to the highest court in the country.
The nine judges of the Supreme Court, six appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democratic presidents, will then have to choose whether to venture into the political arena, or on the contrary to prudently abstain from it. They also took up the question of his ineligibility in a separate file.
Donald Trump is also being prosecuted by the courts of the state of Georgia (southeast) for related acts of electoral interference, and will also have to answer in federal court for his alleged negligent management of confidential documents after his departure from the White House.