Trump is almost certain to appeal the decision, which appears to be ultimately headed to the Supreme Court, which will skip the all-important trial in Washington, DC’s special counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump.
Chutkan’s opinion is an important and historic benchmark for the prosecution of Trump, leading to what is expected to be the first ever criminal trial of a former president. Aware of that history, Chutkan repeatedly listened to the founders, saying that George Washington himself wanted presidents subject to the rule of law.
“In this case, the Defendant is accused of trying to seize the reins of government as Washington warned,” Chutkan, a 2014 Obama appointee to the federal bench, wrote.
Chutkan’s decision came less than 12 hours after a federal appeals court rejected Trump’s similar claim of immunity from a series of civil lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 2021. Chutkan cited the times- The old ruling twice himself, saying that the appeals court agreed that presidents are not immune from the consequences of the actions they take even while in office .
But Chutkan also emphasized that Trump’s status as a former president greatly limits concerns about the potential chilling effect a potential prosecution could have on current and future administrators. However, he said, the fact that Trump is the only former president to be indicted — and the strong due process protections for all criminal defendants — dramatically eased those concerns.
“(T)he prospect of federal criminal liability for a former President” does not violate the long-standing principle that presidents should act without fear that they may face future litigation or other more “unacceptable risks.”
“Indeed, it is likely that a President who knows that his actions may one day be criminally prosecuted will be motivated to take great care that the laws are faithfully enforced,” he ruled, adding , “Every President faces difficult decisions; if intentionally committing a federal crime should not be one of them
Trump has argued that he is immune from federal prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election based on several constitutional principles. Among them, he argued that his desire to encourage and compel state and federal officials to reject the certified results was merely an exercise of his First Amendment free speech rights. He also alleged that since he was impeached by the House shortly after the brutal attack on Jan. 6, 2021 in the Capitol – and he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate – his criminal charges violated the Constitution’s prohibition of “double jeopardy.”
Chutkan dismissed both arguments as a patent misreading of the Constitution.
“(I)t is well established that the First Amendment does not protect speech used as an instrument of a crime,” Chutkan said.
He also dismissed the idea that Trump’s impeachment acquittal prevents future criminal prosecutions from relevant conduct as contrary to “common sense.”
“Without reelection, the end of that term ends a Presidency as surely as impeachment and conviction,” Chutkan wrote. “Nothing in the Impeachment Judgment Clause precludes criminal prosecution thereafter.”
The decision is also not the first time Chutkan has emphasized that Trump does not have the power of a king. In a landmark decision in 2021, Chutkan granted the committee on January 6 access to Trump’s White House holdings in the National Archives, a decision that was ultimately upheld by an appeals court and allowed to stand. Supreme Court.
“Presidents are not kings, and the Plaintiff is not the President,” he said of Trump at the time.