Trump’s ‘Presidential Immunity’ Defense: Is It A Hail Mary Pass?

Former President Donald Trump has filed a motion to dismiss federal election interference charges against him, citing “presidential immunity.” Trump argues that he cannot be prosecuted for actions taken while serving as President.

“The President of the United States sits at the heart of our system of government,” the 52-page court filing to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan reads. “He is our Nation’s leader, our head of state, and our head of government. As such, the founders tasked the President — and the President alone — with the sacred obligation of ‘tak[ing] Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’”

Trump’s attorneys maintain that his presidential status at the time protects even duties on the “outer perimeter” of a president’s “official responsibility,” including communications made with lawmakers and Department of Justice officials to investigate his election fraud claims.

“Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the ‘outer perimeter,’ but at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,” the defense motion states. “In doing so, the prosecution does not, and cannot, argue that President Trump’s efforts to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same, were outside the scope of his duties.”

“Instead, the prosecution falsely claims that President Trump’s motives were impure —  that he purportedly ‘knew’ that the widespread reports of fraud and election irregularities were untrue but sought to address them anyway,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the motion.

“But as the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and hundreds of years of history and tradition all make clear, the President’s motivations are not for the prosecution or this Court to decide. Rather, where, as here, the President’s actions are within the ambit of his office, he is absolutely immune from prosecution.”

Trump was indicted by Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith on multiple felony charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

“The attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” Smith said. “As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government — the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”