/Trump tests two new election interference defenses

Trump tests two new election interference defenses


Former President Donald Trump asks a Washington appeals court to toss special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case against him, claiming he cannot be prosecuted for a crime similar to the one for which he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate during his second impeachment trial. In a social media post, Trump pushes that defense even further, claiming that it was his “duty” to contest his 2020 election loss to Biden. Here’s the latest legal news involving the man who hopes to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Trump asks appeals court to toss out election interference charges

Key players: Special counsel Jack Smith, DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Senate, U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Tanya Chutkan

  • On Saturday, Trump’s lawyers filed a brief with the D.C. Circuit asking them to toss Smith’s election interference case on the grounds that the U.S. Senate acquitted Trump in Feb. of 2021 of “incitement of insurrection” charges, NBC News reported.

  • “The structure of our government, the text of the Constitution and its early commentators, common-law immunity doctrines, our political history, the Supreme Court’s analogous immunity doctrines, and the psolicy considerations rooted in the separation of powers all dictate that no President, current or former, may be criminally prosecuted for his official acts unless he is first impeached and convicted by the Senate,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

  • “Nor may a President face criminal prosecution based on conduct for which he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate,” they added. “The indictment against President Trump is unlawful and unconstitutional. It must be dismissed.”

  • While a bipartisan majority of the Senate (57-43) voted that Trump was guilty of incitement of insurrection, it fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution to convict him.

  • Smith has charged Trump with four felony counts in the Jan. 6 case, including “conspiracy to defraud the United States” by knowingly spreading false claims about the 2020 election and attempting to overturn legitimate results.

  • On Jan.9, the appeals court is hearing arguments on whether presidential immunity claims protect Trump from prosecution. That decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last week refused a request by Smith to fast-track a ruling on the immunity question.

  • Smith has argued that Trump’s actions were not part of his official duties as president. Chutkan, who is overseeing the Jan. 6 case against Trump, has already ruled that Trump is not protected by presidential immunity.

  • In a potential preview of new defense arguments, Trump attempted once again to reframe his actions to block the certification by Congress of his loss to Biden on Jan. 6.

  • “I was doing my duty as President to expose and further investigate a Rigged and Stolen Election,” Trump wrote.

Why it matters: Most legal experts believe the appeals court will deny Trump’s request to simply dismiss the charges against him and will rule against the former president on the question of presidential immunity, setting up a date with the Supreme Court.

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