Donald Trump recently claimed in a social media post that U.S. presidents “must have complete and total presidential immunity” from prosecution even if they “cross the line” while in office. His attorneys made that immunity claim before a federal appellate court last month, arguing that the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith charging Trump with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election should be dismissed.
One Trump attorney suggested under questioning by the three-judge panel that even a president directing SEAL Team Six to kill a political rival would be an action barred from criminal prosecution unless the president was first impeached by the House and convicted in a Senate trial.
And Rolling Stone, citing two sources close to Trump, reported that Trump and his allies “are plotting a way to give presidents a legal shield for life if he wins in 2024.” The plan would be to have the Trumpified Department of Justice expand an existing Office of Legal Counsel memo prohibiting the prosecution of sitting presidents to apply to presidents after they leave office.
Now the principle that “no one is above the law” is a fundamental tenet of democratic societies. The only U.S. president to ever come close to facing a criminal indictment after leaving office was Richard Nixon, who was pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
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