Constitutional Law

Trump doesn't have 'divine right of kings' to avoid charges in election-subversion case, federal judge rules

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AP Judge Tanya Chutkan

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., has said former President Donald Trump does not have absolute immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in office. Photo from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts via the Associated Press.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday that former President Donald Trump isn’t immune from criminal charges in the case accusing him of trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., said Trump does not have absolute immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in office, report Politico, CNN, Law360 and the New York Times.

Being president doesn’t “confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass,” Chutkan wrote in the Dec. 1 opinion. “Defendant’s four-year service as commander in chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”

Chutkan also rejected Trump’s claims that he could not be prosecuted unless his impeachments led to a conviction.

“Nothing in the impeachment judgment clause prevents criminal prosecution thereafter,” she wrote.

Nor does the prosecution following an impeachment acquittal amount to double jeopardy, Chutkan said.

Chutkan is an appointee of former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s lawyers intend to filed an appeal and to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, in a bid to push back the trial until after the 2024 presidential election, according to the New York Times.

Trump’s Aug. 1 federal indictment alleges that he conspired to defraud the United States by using false election-fraud claims to obstruct the certification of vote results, conspired to obstruct and obstructed an official proceeding—the vote certification—and engaged in a civil rights conspiracy by seeking to interfere with the right to have one’s vote counted.

Chutkan’s decision followed a ruling earlier Friday that held that Trump does not have official-act immunity in civil lawsuits seeking damages in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said a campaign to gain office is not an official act that would entitle Trump to immunity.

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