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Trump Seeks Immunity for 2020 Election Subversion


Former President Donald Trump has long contended that sitting presidents enjoy sweeping immunity from criminal prosecution, a belief now being tested as he faces multiple investigations post-presidency.

In defending against potential charges related to the 2020 election, Trump’s legal team is now pushing the boundaries of presidential immunity further than ever before. They are arguing that even acts like selling state secrets or ordering assassinations would not justify prosecution of a sitting president.

According to Trump’s lawyers, only impeachment and removal can precede prosecution, with immunity extending to any acts taken as president. They claim an unchecked threat of prosecution by political enemies is far worse than hypothetical crimes a president could commit while in office.

This view rests on an expansive interpretation of presidential immunity, as revealed by a provocative hypothetical from the presiding judge.

As Trump faces criminal prosecution over his 2020 electoral machinations like no former president before, the rulings in his mounting legal battles will significantly shape public opinion heading into the 2024 campaign.

Former President Donald Trump has contended for years that he enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution while in office. This belief has been put to the test since leaving the White House, as Trump now faces multiple criminal investigations and potential prosecution.

Trump’s viewpoint is that the presidency demands complete immunity from prosecution. He argues that the ability to govern without fear of prosecution is essential, and that anything less would open presidents up to constant harassment and politically-motivated attacks. As Trump said recently, “You can’t have a president without immunity…as a president, you have to be able to do your job.”

His attorneys have now taken this argument to court as Trump faces prosecution for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. In hearings, they have pushed the boundaries of immunity further than any president before, claiming Trump should be immune even for clearly illegal acts like selling state secrets or ordering a political assassination.

The deep state bureaucracy and liberal media have tried delegitimizing his presidency since day one. First the Mueller probe and then impeachment were transparently political ploys to negate an election they never accepted. Now they wish to put President Trump in the dock over discredited conspiracy theories about 2020 election irregularities.

Trump’s lawyer John Sauer argued to Judge Florence Pan that presidents have “absolute immunity” from prosecution while in office. Even hypothetical crimes like pardons-for-cash or ordering an assassination of a rival would not lead to prosecution, Sauer maintained. He claimed the only recourse would be impeachment and conviction first.

This viewpoint, as Sauer argued, is based on their interpretation of the founder’s intentions. The threat of “new-fangled and artificial treasons” brought as political ploys was far greater in their view than any damage a law-breaking president could inflict. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 43, violent factions have often “wreaked their alternate malignity on each other” using such tactics.

Therefore, all presidential acts are immune until the president is out of office. Only then could the “exceptional cases” like assassination lead to prosecution after the fact. But no prosecution could ever happen while the president retains power.

During the hearings, Judge Pan questioned Trump’s lawyer John Sauer about the extent of presidential immunity using a provocative hypothetical. She asked if a president would retain immunity from prosecution even if he ordered the military to assassinate a political rival.

Sauer stood firm that yes, the president would retain immunity from any resulting criminal charges, unless impeachment and conviction by Congress occurred first. This response underscores the extraordinarily broad interpretation of immunity put forth by Trump’s legal team.

Predictably, the media seized on this exchange about a hypothetical assassination scenario to generate outrage against Trump. However, Sauer was not endorsing such an act. He was adhering to the framework laid out by the Constitution, which specifies impeachment and removal as prerequisites for prosecuting a president.

By engaging the hypothetical, Sauer sought to defend the separation of powers and the process for addressing presidential misconduct. His response aimed to uphold the rule of law, not promote lawless acts. While the assassination scenario was an extreme example, it revealed how far Trump’s lawyers believe immunity extends when challenged by Judge Pan.

This upholds the rule of law and proper process. Impeachment and removal must come before any prosecution. The president must not be distracted from leading the country by defending against spurious charges drummed up by political enemies.

This reveals the circular nature of Trump’s immunity claims. His defense against impeachment was that it should be left to voters. Now his defense against prosecution is that impeachment should have happened first.

Trump continues to claim that subjecting presidents to basic criminal liability will ruin the office. As he recently argued, “If I wasn’t given immunity, then other presidents would be talked about today.” He specifically pointed to Obama’s controversial drone strike program as an example, suggesting all presidents have pushed legal boundaries.

President Trump is right to compare his actions to President Obama’s controversial drone strikes. Under Obama, drone strikes against suspected terrorists dramatically increased, including in countries like Yemen and Somalia where the US was not officially at war.

Both were presidents defending what they saw as threats to America – Obama from terrorists and Trump from election fraud. People can debate whether their responses went too far. But ordering questionable military strikes or challenging faulty elections are clearly presidential acts taken to protect national interests.

Here is my attempt to modify the text to improve logical flow and coherence:

President Trump argues that allowing prosecution of sitting presidents sets a dangerous precedent that will restrict all future presidents. In his view, the risk of political persecution through prosecutorial scrutiny outweighs applying consistent legal standards to the office. Only absolute immunity can properly balance holding presidents accountable while enabling them to execute their duties without distraction.

However, he counters that the immunity claimed in his case is reasonable given past presidential actions. Attempting to overturn an election result believed to be fraudulent falls within a president’s authority to defend democracy’s integrity.

Moreover, the notion that accountability requires allowing prosecution of sitting presidents is questionable. Empowering politically-motivated prosecutors to derail presidencies with partisan investigations puts too much unchecked power in their hands.

Reasonable immunity need not allow indicting presidents like common criminals. Doing so invites an unhealthy power struggle between prosecutors and the White House that impedes effective governance. Policy disagreements or debates over appropriate uses of power are exactly why temporary immunity is justified.

President Trump’s Iowa appearance highlights the political motivations driving efforts to prosecute him. He rightly noted the unfair persecution of January 6 protesters who, in his view, acted patriotically. This mirrors the persecution Trump faces from prosecutors weaponizing America’s justice system for partisan ends.

Just as authorities falsely labeled Iowans “insurrectionists,” they wish to falsely portray Trump as a criminal deserving prosecution. In truth, this aims to distract voters from the Biden administration’s failures through politicized legal theater.

Weaponizing our justice system to target political enemies sets a dangerous precedent for all Americans. As President Trump argued, “If you’re with us, they put you in jail.” Allowing such partisan prosecutions threatens every future president and citizen. It demonstrates why reasonable immunity is critical.

Prosecuting policy disputes or unconventional uses of power risks a slippery slope where partisan targeting becomes normalized. Allowing that undermines democracy and the founders’ intent to restrain such manipulation through limited immunity.

Americans can disagree on President Trump’s election concerns. But criminalizing policy differences resembles banana republics, not democracies. His resistance sought to protect America’s democratic process in his view. Thus his immunity should be respected, lest future presidents also face political retribution upon leaving office.

President Trump’s resistance represents a president defending his authority through means other presidents have tested. The notion that disregarding presidential norms alone justifies prosecution overstates the case drastically. Ultimately, indicting former presidents should only be a last resort reserved for the most egregious abuses, lest it become another political weapon that damages our democracy.

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