In the opinion finding that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution, the three appeals court judges found that if proven, the former president’s efforts to usurp the 2020 presidential election were an “unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.”
“It would be a striking paradox if the President, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’ were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity,” they wrote.
The judges flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his criminal indictment would have a “chilling effect” on future presidents.
Trump’s attorneys had argued that if future chief executives believed that they could be indicted for their “official acts” as president, they would be more hesitant to act within their role.
“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter. Careful evaluation of these concerns leads us to conclude that there is no functional justification for immunizing former Presidents from federal prosecution in general or for immunizing former President Trump from the specific charges in the Indictment,” the appeals court judges also said.
In rejecting Trump’s immunity arguments, the appeals panel also said the public interest in holding a potentially criminal president accountable outweighed the potential negative impacts on the office of the presidency.
But the court was clear to explicitly note that they weren’t offering any commentary on the potential implications of prosecuting a sitting president – which didn’t happen in this case.