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Title:Lawyers to cite Nixon case during Supreme Court arguments about immunity of former President Trump
Duration:01:01
Viewed:57,502
Published:23-04-2024
Source:Youtube

The Supreme Court has scheduled a special session to hear arguments over whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted over his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. The case, to be argued Thursday, stems from Trump's attempts to have charges against him dismissed. Lower courts have found he cannot claim for actions that, prosecutors say, illegally sought to interfere with the election results. Trump has been charged in federal court in Washington with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, one of four criminal cases he is facing. A trial has begun in New York over hush-money payments to a porn star to cover up an alleged sexual encounter. The Supreme Court is moving faster than usual in taking up the case, though not as quickly as special counsel Jack Smith wanted, raising questions about whether there will be time to hold a trial before the November election, if the justices agree with lower courts that Trump can be prosecuted. When the justices agreed on Feb. 28 to hear the case, they put the issue this way: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” That's a question the Supreme Court has never had to answer. Never before has a former president faced criminal charges so the court has't had occasion to take up the question of whether the president's unique role means he should be shielded from prosecution, even after he has left office. Both sides point to the absence of previous prosecutions to undergird their arguments. Trump's lawyers told the court that presidents would lose their independence and be unable to function in office if they knew their actions in office could lead to criminal charges once their terms were over. Smith's team wrote that the lack of previous criminal charges “underscores the unprecedented nature” of what Trump is accused of. Both Trump's lawyers and Smith's team are invoking former President Richard Nixon at the Supreme Court. Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace nearly 50 years ago rather than face impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal from office by the Senate in the Watergate scandal. Trump's team cites Nixon v. Fitzgerald, a 1982 case in which the Supreme Court held by a 5-4 vote that former presidents cannot be sued in civil cases for their actions while in office. The case grew out of the firing of a civilian Air Force analyst who testified before Congress about cost overruns in the production of the C-5A transport plane. “In view of the special nature of the President's constitutional office and functions, we think it appropriate to recognize absolute Presidential immunity from damages liability for acts within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his official responsibility,” Justice Lewis Powell wrote for the court. But that decision recognized a difference between civil lawsuits and “the far weightier" enforcement of federal criminal laws, Smith's team told the court. They also invoked the high court decision that forced Nixon to turn over incriminating White House tapes for use in the prosecutions of his top aides. And prosecutors also pointed to President Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon, and Nixon's acceptance of it, as resting “on the understanding that the former President faced potential criminal liability.” The subtext of the immunity fight is about timing. Trump has sought to push back the trial until after the election, when, if he were to regain the presidency, he could order the Justice Department to drop the case. Prosecutors have been pressing for a quick decision from the Supreme Court so that the clock can restart on trial preparations. It could take three months once the court acts before a trial actually starts. If the court hands down its decision in late June, which would be the typical timeframe for a case argued so late in the court's term, there might not be enough time to start the trial before the election.



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