The Memo: US Supreme Court rules that Trump has partial immunity from prosecution

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US Supreme Court rules that Trump has partial immunity from prosecution

Emily Dunham - 8 July 2024

While Trump’s definitely had his spotlight in the legal news lately, the most recent headline is a win for him: the US Supreme Court has decided that former presidents are partially immune from criminal prosecution. The ruling comes from the indictment that Donald Trump is currently facing, part of which alleges that he pressured the law enforcement agency to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, and pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to not verify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.  

The 6-3 ruling has not led to a complete dismissal of the indictment, but does take away key parts of the case brought against Trump. Essentially, the justices of the Supreme Court found that a president has immunity for official acts,” but not for unofficial acts. This means that any actions that could be counted as part of a president’s formal job responsibilities cannot be prosecuted. Naturally, Trump was happy about the decision, writing a post on his social media platform, ‘Truth Social’: “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY.” (Yes, in all caps.) 

The decision is certainly a big win for Trump, though, making it less likely that he will stand trial in the case before facing Joe Biden in the upcoming election. The trial would see Trump face claims of inciting the US Capitol Riot in January 2021 through comments made online and outside the White House on that day. However, since the Supreme Court decided that Trump’s speech and social media activity can all be considered official acts, he is immune from prosecution in relation to them. 

The three dissenting justices were the liberals on the Supreme Court, and they strongly expressed a “fear for our democracy” because of the ruling. Justice Sonia Sotomayor went so far as to write that “the President is now a king above the law.” She argued that presidents could now be protected even if they were to order special forces to assassinate a political rival or even organise a military coup to maintain power, for example. As these could all supposedly be considered official acts, presidents would be offered immunity from prosecution in these situations. 

The case against Trump has been passed onto a trial judge who will decide which claims against Trump can be progressed further. So, until that’s finalised, we’re unlikely to know exactly what the decision will mean for the Republican. However, he will again have the opportunity to appeal any decisions through the justice system and all the way up to the Supreme Court.