(The Center Square) – A federal appeals court dealt former President Donald Trump’s defense a major blow Tuesday when it said he doesn’t have presidential immunity to protect him from charges of election interference in his Washington D.C. case.
“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the three-judge panel wrote in a unanimous decision. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”
Two of the judges were appointed by President Joe Biden – J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan – and one, Karen LeCraft Henderson, by George H.W. Bush.
Trump, an overwhelming favorite to oppose Biden in November trying to return to the White House, had posted Monday that presidential immunity was necessary.
“If immunity is not granted to a president, every president that leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party,” he wrote in all caps on his social media platform Truth Social. “Without complete immunity, a president of the United States would not be able to properly function!”
Trump is expected to appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team of federal prosecutors charged Trump with four federal counts related to contesting the 2020 election and the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. The charges include conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted, according to the indictment. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Friday, Judge Tanya Chutkan delayed the trial date indefinitely from March 4, the day before Super Tuesday. She said a new date would be set “if and when the mandate is returned” from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Prosecutors had asked the Court of Appeals to decide if Trump had presidential immunity from the charges. Oral arguments were heard Jan. 9, with justices questioning Trump’s immunity from prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump’s legal team said presidents could only be prosecuted if they had already been impeached and convicted by the Senate. Trump, twice impeached twice in the House, was never convicted in the Senate.
The judges asked skeptical questions. Pan asked if a former president could be prosecuted for selling pardons or military secrets. She also asked if a president could be prosecuted for ordering the assassination of a political opponent.