Letter: No one has said there is absolute immunity except Donald Trump

A camera is set up on a tripod outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Thursday, April 25, 2024, as justices heard arguments on whether former presidents have some degree of immunity from criminal prosecution. Members of the court's conservative majority on Thursday treated former President Donald Trump's argument as a weighty and difficult question. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding Donald Trump’s notion that presidents should have absolute immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while in office. Since the founding of our republic, we have expected the president to perform his duties out of respect for the law and with full faith to serve the citizens of the country with integrity. Not one POTUS has ever tried to overturn the results of an election until Jan. 6, 2021.

The male justices danced around the question at hand and obfuscated the proceedings with specious hypotheticals about official vs. private acts and concerns about future presidents not being able to do the job out of fear of being prosecuted by incoming administrations. They did leave open the possibility of the D.C. trial going ahead because the charges are based on Trump’s private acts vs. official duties. However, the timing of the court’s opinion and eventual trial bodes of playing into the delay tactic of the former president. This case could have been adjudicated by the Circuit Court of Appeals, but SCOTUS is expected to issue all of its decisions in late June. The court’s ruling and possibility of further proceedings in lower courts will more than likely prevent the D.C. trial from going forward before the 2024 election.

The female justices were more direct in their questioning by referring to the case at hand, which is the scheme to overturn the 2020 election. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson put it succinctly, “Without the threat of criminal liability, future presidents will be emboldened to commit crimes. Why would the president not be required to follow the law when performing official or private acts?”

No one has said there is absolute immunity except Donald Trump. Until now, no one has needed It. Richard Nixon resigned from office and was pardoned by Gerald Ford. The bedrock principle of our democracy is the rule of law and it is axiomatic that no one is above the law. There is nothing here that can’t be prosecuted.

Don Hiddleson, Millcreek

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