Donald Trump attended the January 9 arguments before a federal appeals court over the question of presidential immunity, the Associated Press reported.
The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia appeared skeptical of the Defense’s claim that Donald Trump was immune from prosecution because his attempts to overturn the 2020 election fell under his duties as president.
During arguments, the judges repeatedly pressed Trump’s attorney D. John Sauer to defend the claim, which US District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected in early December.
Based on their questions, the appeals court judges also appeared doubtful that the Founders envisioned unfettered immunity after a president leaves office.
Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson pointed out the contradiction of thinking that the laws a president is charged with faithfully executing would permit him to violate criminal law.
Sauer argued that the courts did not have the authority to examine the official acts of a president and maintained that Trump’s prosecution for his actions following the 2020 election was a dramatic departure from over two centuries of US history that would pave the way for further politically motivated prosecutions.
However, the judges were skeptical of Sauer’s argument. Both Judge Henderson and Judge Florence Pan pointed out that the attorney who represented Trump in his second impeachment trial suggested that Trump could face criminal prosecution after leaving office, telling the senators that the country has a judicial and investigative process “to which no former office-holder is immune.”
Judge Pan suggested that in voting to acquit, many of the senators “relied on that.”
Judge J. Michelle Childs asked Sauer why President Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon in 1974 if presidents enjoyed a lifetime immunity from prosecution. Sauer argued that the case with Nixon was different because the Watergate scandal did not involve “official acts.”
In addition to questioning the merits of Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, the appellate judges also questioned Sauer over whether the court has jurisdiction to handle the appeal before the trial. Sauer insisted that the question of immunity should be reviewed before the case goes to trial.
The Appeals Court is expected to rule quickly on the immunity question.