A US judge ruled that US ex-President Donald Trump does not have immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct he committed as president, rejecting his request to dismiss the case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith accusing him of illegally attempting to reverse his 2020 election defeat.
Tanya Chutkan, a US District Judge, ruled on Friday that there is no legal basis to conclude that
presidents cannot face criminal prosecution once they leave office.
“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,” Chutkan wrote in
Because Trump is the first current or previous US president to face criminal charges, Chutkan’s
decision is the first by a US court to confirm that presidents, like any other citizen, can be charged
The judge also dismissed Trump’s claim that the accusations violate his free speech rights under the
First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Trump’s lawyers stated that Smith’s case attempts to criminalize core political speech and political advocacy.
Chutkan’s decision moves Trump one step closer to facing a jury on charges that he tried to interfere
with electoral vote tallying and prevent legislative certification of Biden’s victory.
Trump has pleaded not guilty and accused prosecutors of attempting to harm his presidential campaign. The trial is set to start in March.
Trump can immediately appeal the ruling, which could cause the trial to be delayed while an appeals
court and possibly the Supreme Court consider the issue.
Trump has additional legal petitions filed to dismiss the case based on other allegations, including that his conduct, as described by prosecutors, does not fit the charges presented against him.
Trump’s lawyers have made a broad argument that he is “absolutely immune” from accusations
stemming from his official conduct as president, suggesting that political opponents may use the
threat of criminal prosecution to interfere with a president’s obligations.
His defence team contended that the protection granted to US presidents in civil cases should be
extended to criminal charges as well.
Prosecutors said that Trump’s argument would violate fundamental constitutional norms. He is also facing criminal charges for allegedly mishandling classified materials after leaving the White House.