Donald Trump is aggressively contesting federal charges against him, claiming that his status as a former U.S. president affords him immunity from criminal prosecution.
In a legal maneuver executed on Thursday, Trump’s legal team asserted that historical precedent spanning 234 years, from the nation’s founding in 1789 to 2023, unequivocally supports the notion that former presidents cannot be indicted for their official actions.
These arguments were presented to the U.S. District Court in Washington.
This move constituted one of two parallel efforts by Trump’s legal representatives to have criminal cases against him dismissed.
The second effort involved seeking the dismissal of charges related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In both cases, Trump’s lawyers asserted that the charges were politically motivated and legally flawed.
Throughout his tenure in office and in the aftermath of his presidency, Trump has consistently asserted claims of immunity from legal prosecution.
These claims have been met with legal challenges and, in many instances, have been rejected by the courts.
For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 dismissed Trump’s argument that he was entirely immune from state criminal investigations while serving as president.
In another legal ruling, a U.S. judge determined last year that Trump was not immune from civil lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for his supporters’ actions during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
The judge emphasized that Trump’s actions leading up to the riot, including casting doubt on the election results, were not part of his official responsibilities.
The case in Washington involves U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith charging Trump with four felony counts related to his alleged attempts to interfere in the vote-counting process and to obstruct the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Trump has entered a plea of not guilty in this case.
This legal battle is just one of four criminal prosecutions that Trump, aged 77, is currently facing as he contemplates a return to the White House.
He is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.
In their recent court filing, Trump’s lawyers assert that the acts mentioned in the indictment were aimed at ensuring “election integrity” and are thus “at the heart of his official responsibilities as President.”
These acts include alleged meetings where Trump urged the Justice Department to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud and pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the election results.
Notably, Trump has contended that impeachment, a process that allows Congress to charge and try presidents for misconduct, is the appropriate avenue for holding presidents accountable for their official actions.
The House of Representatives previously impeached Trump on charges of inciting the January 6 riot, but he was subsequently acquitted by the Senate.