A federal judge on Friday rejected former President Trump’s argument that he is immune in his 2020 election subversion criminal case, while also denying his other constitutional defenses.
“Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass, Former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability,” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in the 48-page ruling.
“Defendant may be subject to federal investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction, and punishment for any criminal acts undertaken while in office,” she added.
Trump asserted the immunity defense in October, arguing all his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are protected by presidential immunity.
The former president faces four felony charges in the case, with Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s office saying he engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruct the certification of the votes being carried out by Congress, as well as a conspiracy “against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.”
The former president pleaded not guilty to the charges in August.
“Nothing in the Constitution’s text or allocation of government powers requires exempting former Presidents from that solemn process,” Chutkan ruled. And neither the People who adopted the Constitution nor those who have safeguarded it across generations have ever understood it to do so.”
“Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens,” she added in her decision.
Trump had also pointed to his second impeachment, noting the Senate failed to boot him from office after his efforts to resist the peaceful transfer of power were swiftly brought before the upper chamber.
He contended that his acquittal in the Senate meant he couldn’t be prosecuted in the case.
But Chutkan, an Obama appointee, rejected that argument as well.
“But neither traditional double jeopardy principles nor the Impeachment Judgment Clause provide that a prosecution following impeachment acquittal violates double jeopardy,” Chutkan wrote.
She also tossed Trump’s contention that the indictment violated his due process rights and that the alleged conduct was protected by the First Amendment.
Trump argued the prosecution criminalizes his core political speech.
“But it is well established that the First Amendment does not protect speech that is used as an instrument of a crime, and consequently the Indictment—which charges Defendant with, among other things, making statements in furtherance of a crime—does not violate Defendant’s First Amendment rights,” Chutkan wrote.
Updated at 8:05 pm.