Demonstrators protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

Demonstrators protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on July 1, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Drew Angerer/AFP via Getty Images)

Right-Wing Supreme Court Rules Trump Has 'Absolute Immunity' for Official Acts

"In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law," warned Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled along ideological lines on Monday that former President Donald Trump is entitled to "absolute immunity" for "official acts" taken while he was in office, a decision that liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned makes any occupant of the Oval Office "a king above the law."

Writing for the majority in the 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that Trump "may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers, and he is entitled, at a minimum, to a presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts."

But Sotomayor countered in her dissent that the majority distorted the concept of core constitutional powers "beyond any recognizable bounds," effectively granting Trump the sweeping immunity he demanded as he faces charges for attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election in a failed last-ditch bid to remain in power.

"When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority's reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution," Sotomayor wrote. "Orders the Navy's SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Immune, immune, immune."

"In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law," the justice added. "With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

The New York Timesnoted that the high court "has remanded the case to the federal district court judge overseeing the matter, Tanya Chutkan, to determine the nature of the acts for which former President Trump has been charged—which are unofficial ones he undertook in his personal capacity and which are official ones he undertook as president."

The high court's ruling, which came after months of delays, all but forecloses the possibility of Trump facing trial for election subversion charges before the November presidential contest. The progressive advocacy group MoveOn said the conservative supermajority's decision to punt the case back to the lower court makes the justices "complicit in Trump's plan to delay any legal accountability until after the election."

Two of the court's right-wing justices—Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—faced calls to recuse from the case but rejected them.

"Donald Trump incited the deadly January 6 insurrection and the MAGA Supreme Court continues to do everything in their power to stop him from facing accountability for attempting to overthrow our government," said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn Political Action. "Nobody is above the law, especially not Trump. MAGA extremists in Congress and the courts have made it clear there will be no checks or balances on Trump and the only hope for American democracy is the people coming together to defeat him in November."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at Public Citizen, added in a statement that "Trump versus the United States is a fitting name for this case."

"There is no better way to characterize Trump's attempt to upend the Constitution and rule of law as we know it," Gilbert said. "Today's ruling is a blow to U.S. democracy. But it's not a final blow by any means. Trump can and should still be held accountable for his role in the violence on January 6 in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election and stop a peaceful transfer of power."

In an amicus brief submitted in April, Public Citizen noted that the president "has no specific, constitutionally assigned role in the conduct of presidential elections," making "any assertion that a president's authority empowers him to conspire to overturn the result of a valid election and retain power beyond his term in office... absurd."

"Accepting a view of the outer limits of presidential authority that would sweep in a conspiracy to overturn an election and remain in office unlawfully would have exceptionally broad implications and threaten severe damage to our constitutional democracy," the group warned.

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