Score for Democracy, D.C. Appeals Court Rejects Presidential Immunity

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Much of  the nation has been marking the MAGA anti-democratic drumbeat – some with eyes-wide-open trepidation, others in blissful ignorance of what is really going on as the GOP we knew has disintegrated under the weight of Trumpism. But democracy-watchers can be cheered this week with one precedent-setting legal victory. The three-member D.C. Federal Appeals Court has issued a unanimous ruling that rejects ex-President Donald Trump’s claims of absolute presidential immunity.

Former President Donald Trump mug shot Source: August 24, 2023. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office/Handout

They called Trump’s alleged crimes “an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government” — that threaten democracy if left beyond the reach of criminal prosecution.

The 57-page report carefully debunks every single aspect of the claim that this ex-president or any former president has life-long immunity after leaving office for anything he/she did or attempted to do in office. The unanimous opinion completely rejects Trump’s sweeping claim of presidential immunity as dangerous and unsupported by the Constitution.

That means Trump can be put on trial for trying to stay in power after losing the 2020 election; the very charges that Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith’s has filed.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results,” the judges’ opinion proclaims.  “Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the Executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count.”

As they laid out their objections, the judges were pointed in referencing Trump, not as President Trump or even as former President Trump, but as “Citizen Trump”. The designation reinforces their judicial decision that while in office there are presidential privileges. but once out of office, a president reverts to being a regular citizen, with the same rights and privileges — no more, no less — than the rest of this country’s citizens.

That said, the Federal Appeals Court gave Trump and his attorneys until Monday, Feb. 12 to file an appeal to see if the U.S. Supreme Court might agree to hear the appeal. But they added a notice of stay that requires five justices to agree with it and if they don’t, lower court Judge Tanya Chutkan can proceed with trying the case even while the appeal is being considered.

Citizen Trump, of course, has taken to social media with a vengeance; name-calling, ranting, and trying to pretend that this decision on presidential immunity will destroy the presidency. Since it never existed, and every other president except Trump has operated faithfully, effectively, and non-criminally without it, we must assume that Trump is evidencing his usual situational projection. Because he would have or already has acted criminally, he presents the false notion that everyone would act as he has.

The calendar had Trump’s trial scheduled for March 4. Trump is facing four criminal prosecutions while he is running to return to the White House. It could be said that his strategy is to run to keep out of prison. But last week that trial date disappeared off the calendar, waiting for the past four weeks on the decision of the Federal Appeals Court.

As the calendar ticks on, the real facts of these trials will become part of the 2024 election stew, which Trump supporters everywhere will try to use to make a case for election interference. But this fact overrides that: no one is above the law, including former presidents.

If bringing Trump to trial to determine his guilt or innocence overlaps the 2024 election season, so be it. Finally, America deserves the truth about a man who may never have told the truth in his whole life. Since he is incapable of that, then the courts are going to need to find out for us.

What’s next as our democracy hangs on by the Rule of Law and our fingernails? We all stay tuned.


About The Author

Jan Wondra

Publisher/Managing EditorWith criss-crossing careers in global marketing and advertising, product management, and journalism, Wondra has found leading business entities from Western Union North America Money Transfer to the Arrow Electronics Global Marketing team to be fertile strategic ground before returning to her journalistic roots; first launching for the Villager Media Group, before launching Ark Valley Voice. As the winner of several Colorado Press Association Awards and Publisher/Managing Editor, she leads an enthusiastic team of journalists who believe strongly that “Truth should have a voice.”

1 Comment

  1. Gary E. Goms Buena Vista CO

    The answer to the presidential immunity issue lies in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power after being appointed Chancellor of Germany by German President Von Hindenburg in January 1933.

    Through a series of incremental steps, Hitler seized absolute power just a few months later by passing the Enabling Act of March 1933, which essentially gave him the dictatorial powers he wanted.

    Which brings us back to the idea of granting Citizen Trump presidential immunity from criminal prosecution, which essentially gives dictatorial powers to him and all future Presidential office holders.

    For the answer to the presidential immunity question, think back to 1933 in Germany and then think ahead to 2025 in the United States…

    Gary E. Goms
    Buena Vista


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