Trump v. United States: Donald Trump is Entitled to Some Immunity from Prosecution

Trump v. United States: No.23-939. Argued April 25, 2024-Decided July 1,  2024.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that former President Donald J. Trump is entitled to substantial immunity from prosecution, delivering a major statement on the scope of presidential power. The vote was 6 to 3, dividing along partisan lines. The ruling makes a distinction between official conduct of a president and the actions of a private citizen. The high court’s 6-3 ruling along ideological lines sends the case back to the lower court to determine what acts alleged in Donald Trump’s indictment on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election are official or unofficial.  A dissent from the liberal wing laments a vast expansion of presidential power.

“The decision will almost surely delay the trial of the case against him on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election past the coming election in November. If that happens and Mr. Trump wins, he could order the Justice Department to drop the charges.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Adam Liptak, New York Times.

On Monday the Supreme Court dispensed with the rule of law by effectively depriving the American people of crucial information we should have had before the November election. The question before the justices in Trump v. United States: Was Donald Trump immune from prosecution for the crimes the special counsel Jack Smith accused him of committing while president? The answer should have been obvious: No, presidents cannot commit crimes aimed at obstructing the peaceful transfer of power without facing consequences. Indeed, to my knowledge, no court has ever held that a president could be criminally immune under any circumstances. Laurence Tribe.  New York Times, July 1, 2024.

“Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the recent Supreme Court decision in Trump v. United States and its implications for presidential immunity and the rule of law in America. Professor Sarat argues that the decision ‘will live in infamy’ and marks a dangerous shift towards authoritarianism by effectively placing the President above the law, contradicting fundamental constitutional principles and previous statements made by the Justices themselves Verdict:”  Supreme Court’s Presidential Immunity Decision ” Will Live in Infany”. Austin Sarat, Professor  of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College,


“Held: Under our constitutional structure of separated powers , the nature of Presidential power entitles a former President to absolute immunity  from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority. And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts. There is no immunity for unofficial acts. Pp. 5–43.

(a) This case is the first criminal prosecution in our Nation’s history of a former President for actions taken during his Presidency. Determining whether and under what circumstances such a prosecution may proceed requires careful assessment of the scope of Presidential power under the Constitution. The nature of that power requires that a former President have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office. At least with respect to the President’s exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute. As for his remaining official actions, he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity. Pp. 5–15″ [Emphasis mine].

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