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U.S. Supreme Court grants partial immunity to Trump in landmark ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump cannot be prosecuted for official actions taken while in office but can face charges for private acts.

This decision, marking the first recognition of any form of presidential immunity from prosecution, came in a 6-3 ruling led by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The ruling overturns a lower court’s decision that denied Trump’s claim of immunity related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The six conservative justices formed the majority, while the three liberal justices dissented. Chief Justice Roberts stated that the constitutional structure necessitates some immunity for former presidents for their official acts, especially those tied to their core constitutional powers.

Trump celebrated the decision on social media, calling it a victory for the Constitution and democracy. The case will return to lower courts to determine if Trump has immunity for other actions, including pressuring Vice President Mike Pence and assembling fake electors. This landmark decision is the first to grant former presidents immunity in any capacity.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, along with Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, sharply dissented, arguing the ruling undermines the principle that no one is above the law. She criticized the majority for granting Trump broader immunity than requested, potentially reshaping the presidency.

Trump is currently running against President Joe Biden in the upcoming November 2024 election. This Supreme Court decision was made on the last day of its term and addressed Trump’s appeal against a lower court’s rejection of his immunity claim. Trump, the first former president to face criminal prosecution, was previously convicted of falsifying documents and faces other criminal charges.

Legal experts like Rick Hasen believe the ruling favors the president’s immunity, likely delaying any trial past the election. The court’s conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump includes charges of election subversion, which Trump has pleaded not guilty to. Trump’s legal team argued for absolute immunity to protect future presidents from potential prosecution threats by political opponents.

Justice Sotomayor emphasized that such immunity could shield presidents from accountability for severe crimes, a stance that the majority dismissed. A May poll showed limited public support for presidential immunity without impeachment.

Despite Special Counsel Smith’s request for a fast-track review, the Supreme Court’s prolonged deliberation has delayed proceedings, making a pre-election trial unlikely. Trump continues to face multiple charges and legal battles as he campaigns for the presidency.