Donald Trump did not get the hearing he hoped for earlier in the week.
The federal appeals court judges in Washington appeared skeptical of Trump’s argument claiming that he could not be prosecuted for his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
With Trump looking on, the three judges expressed deep skepticism of his contention that a president could not be prosecuted — even for assassinating a rival or selling military secrets — if he were not first impeached and convicted by Congress, reports Politico.
“I think it’s paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate criminal law,” said Judge Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee.
Despite that inclination, the judges — who also include Biden appointees Florence Pan and Michelle Childs — appeared divided during Tuesday’s oral argument over how to shape their decision. Their ruling, no matter where they land, is likely to trigger a further appeal to the Supreme Court for a final determination on whether Trump’s criminal trial in Washington, D.C. will take place this year.
That trial is currently scheduled to begin March 4, but it is likely to be postponed by the litigation over Trump’s immunity claims. His claims hinge on his argument that the charges against him, brought by special counsel Jack Smith, arose out of his official acts as president. Smith alleges that Trump tried to disenfranchise American voters and defraud the nation by spreading lies about the 2020 election and attempting to cling to power.
Trump’s lawyer argued that prosecuting former presidents for actions taken while serving as president would lead to the increased weaponization of government.
The position taken by prosecutors, he said, “would authorize for example, the indictment of President Biden in the Western District of Texas after he leaves office for mismanaging the border allegedly.”
That contention, however, appeared to be taken too far once the judge started asking questions.
In a bizarre argument eerily similar to Richard Nixon’s claim that it’s not illegal if the president does it, Trump’s lawyers argued for broad presidential immunity, going so far as to say that immunity would cover a president ordering political rivals to be assassinated by SEAL Team Six.
Semafor noted that “during a hearing at a federal appeals court on Tuesday, Trump’s lead lawyer John Sauer made a sweeping argument for executive immunity, essentially saying that only a president who has been impeached and removed from office by Congress could be criminally prosecuted. Therefore, Sauer argued, the former president should be shielded from criminal prosecution.
One of the judges asked Sauer: ‘Could a president who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, and is not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?’
Sauer responded: ‘If he were impeached and convicted first… there is a political process that would have to occur.’”
Trump attending the hearing reveals that the former president believes Biden’s prosecution of him will only boost his chances in the Republcian primary.
The Washington Post noted that he “was not required to be present, and defendants do not typically attend appeals arguments in their case. But his decision to attend the hearing instead of spending more time in Iowa ahead of the state’s caucuses is yet another suggestion that he plans on blending his criminal defense with his campaign messages.
In a recent campaign message, Trump misleadingly claimed to supporters that Biden was ‘forcing me into a courtroom in our nation’s capital,’ distracting him from campaign strategizing.”
Trump recently claimed that America would experience “bedlam” if his prosecutions continued.
“It’s very unfair when a political opponent is prosecuted by the DOJ, by Biden’s DOJ. So they’re losing in every poll, losing in almost every demographic…numbers came out today that are really very mind-boggling if you happen to be Joe Biden,” the former president said while standing outside of a hotel in the nation’s capital.
And I think they feel this is the way they’re going to try and win and that’s not the way it goes. It’ll be Bedlam in the country. It’s a very bad thing. It’s a very bad precedent. As we said it’s the opening of a Pandora’s Box,’ Trump continued.