What’s next after Donald Trump was denied immunity from criminal charges

Feb 7, 2024

Donald TrumpThe appellate court defeat over whether he has immunity from prosecution moves him closer to standing trial for trying to overturn the 2020 election, even as he campaigns for president again.
Tuesday's verdict confirms a central point made by prosecutors — that the former president is no different legally from any other citizen.
But the panel of three judges US Court of Appeals DC may not be the last word for circuits. The ruling against Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, has been put on hold until February 12 to be appealed to the US Supreme Court. He may also ask the full DC Circuit to rehear the case. No court is required to consider his appeal.
Special counsel Jack Smith is pushing to prosecute Trump over his actions to overturn President Joe Biden's victory, which culminated in the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. trumpThe campaign immediately started raising funds from the ruling and their spokesperson steven cheung Issued a warning.
Cheung said, “If no president is granted immunity, every future president who leaves office will immediately be blamed by the opposing party.” “Without absolute immunity, the President of the United States would not be able to function properly!”
Here are some highlights of the judgment:
'Citizen Trump'

  • In its unanimous decision, the panel found that Trump cannot claim that the office of the presidency protects him from prosecution.
  • “Former President Trump has become Citizen Trump with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that protected him while he served as President no longer protects him from this prosecution.”

'Unprecedented attack'

  • The panel ruled that Trump's alleged actions to remain in power, if proven, were “an unprecedented attack on the structure of our government.” He allegedly inserted himself into a process in which the President has no role – the counting and certification of Electoral College votes – thereby undermining constitutionally established procedures and the will of Congress.
  • Further immunizing him would “embolden the office of the President at the expense of Congress, which is already so powerful and relatively immune from judicial review.”


  • According to the panel, as head of state, the President stands far above any other person in public life, with unmatched power to overrule those who seek to check his power. Still, that power is limited at the polls, he wrote.
  • “We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unlimited authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and enforcement of election results. Nor can we approve of their clear argument that the executive has a deliberate plan to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and have their votes counted.”

separation of powers

  • The panel ruled that Trump's stance would undermine the separation of powers between the three branches of government – ​​executive, legislative and judicial.
  • “Ultimately, former President Trump's stance would collapse our system of separation of powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches,” the court ruled.
  • “Presidential immunity against federal prosecution would mean that, as far as the President is concerned, Congress cannot legislate, the executive cannot prosecute, and the judiciary cannot review. We cannot accept that the presidency places its former occupants above the law forever thereafter.”

no double jeopardy

  • The panel ruled that Trump's second impeachment by the US House of Representatives does not exempt him from prosecution. His lawyers argued that his trial in the Senate on January 6 meant he would now face “double jeopardy” if he were tried in criminal court.
  • But the judges ruled that impeachment is not the same as a criminal conviction, and the impeachment against Trump does not allege the same crimes as the House did in impeaching him.
  • According to the opinion, “The significance of the historic right indicates that the Framers intended for public officials to face impeachment along with ordinary criminal trial.”

ability to rule

  • Trump has argued that a verdict against him would undermine the president's ability to govern without fear of criminal charges or retaliatory lawsuits. The panel said it is more important to have “fair and accurate judicial proceedings” as in criminal trials.
  • Recent history shows that former presidents, including Trump himself, understood that they were not “completely immune from criminal liability for official acts” during their presidency.
  • For example, Gerald Ford pardoned richard nixon, “which both former presidents apparently believed was necessary to avoid impeachment following Nixon's resignation.” Bill Clinton accepted a five-year suspension of his law license and a $25,000 fine in exchange for independent counsel robert ray Agreed not to press charges against him. And during Trump's second impeachment, his lawyers said the more appropriate path was prosecution, “from which no former officeholder is immune.”

What's next for Trump?

  • The appellate panel gave Trump until February 12 to ask the US Supreme Court to hear the case. If the high court accepts their plea, the nine judges will likely make new arguments on an expedited basis before issuing a judgment. If the Supreme Court declines to take the case, the appeals court's decision would stand and Trump would have to go to trial.
  • Trump may also request a rehearing before a full panel of the D.C. Circuit. Such “en banc” reviews are rarely granted, and Tuesday's decision will take effect once the court decides what to do. That means the case will go on in the trial court. If re-hearing is allowed, it could be stopped again.
  • Any of these moves would further delay the trial of Trump, who faces three other criminal cases.

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