Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Three Women Say No To Trump

From Charlie Pierce on the ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

There was a time in our history, and not so very long ago, that the evaporation of a ludicrous legal claim in a federal appeals court would not rate a box on page 21 of the Metro section. But this is not then, so when El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago brought his ludicrous claim on limitless presidential immunity before the D.C Court of Appeals, and when, after a substantial (and nerve-wracking) delay, the Court on Tuesday left that claim a pile of smoking meat on a back road, it was a veritable legal earthquake. Three women on the bench looked at the exalted claims of a guy who already has been judged a sexual predator and laughed in his face. From the decision:

Since then, hundreds of people who breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021, have been prosecuted and imprisoned. And on August 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C., former President Trump was charged in a four-count Indictment as a result of his actions challenging the election results and interfering with the sequence set forth in the Constitution for the transfer of power from one President to the next. Former President Trump moved to dismiss the Indictment and the district court denied his motion. Today, we affirm the denial. For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution…

…“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results. Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the Executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count…

..At bottom, former President Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches. Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the President, the Congress could not legislate, the Executive could not prosecute and the Judiciary could not review. We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter. Careful evaluation of these concerns leads us to conclude that there is no functional justification for immunizing former Presidents from federal prosecution in general or for immunizing former President Trump from the specific charges in the Indictment.

Moreover, the Appeals panel clearly has lost tolerance for the former president*’s well-worn strategies for running out the clock. It gave him until Monday to bring his case to the Supreme Court, or else it will all go back to Judge Tanya Chutkan for trial. (His lawyers may have to buy a new box of crayons.) And that low hum you hear is the slow revving of the machinery back there. The system is powering up again.

It’s a big week for big issues in the courts. On Thursday, the Supremes will hear oral arguments on whether or not states can deny the former president* a place on their ballots based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Smart money says that they’ll find a way to duck the obvious constitutionality of that case, but that, now, they might not even agree to hear an appeal on the immunity case. The true danger would be a Supreme Court decision that shoves the case past the 2024 election on the calendar, which would raise the possibility of the case dying as a result of a Grifter Restoration. Hell, in that case, special counsel Jack Smith might find himself hauled away. The safe play is for the Supreme Court.

For the nonce, though, sanity and common sense are singing in tune, a rare melody in this cacophonous time. Of course, the indicted former president*’s camp has their story and they’re sticking to it. From The Hill:

“Prosecuting a President for official acts violates the Constitution and threatens the bedrock of our Republic. President Trump respectfully disagrees with the DC Circuit’s decision and will appeal it in order to safeguard the Presidency and the Constitution,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

The “respectful disagreement” lasted an entire paragraph.

“Deranged Jack Smith’s prosecution of President Trump for his Presidential, official acts is unconstitutional under the doctrine of Presidential Immunity and the Separation of Powers,” Cheung said.

“Deranged” Jack Smith has the whip hand again, and no matter how much the former president* and his lackeys bluster and fume, he’s got a good grip on it.

I’m surprised that they didn’t just say, “Are you fucking kidding me?” to each of the claims, but that’s what they meant.

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