Donald Trump bids for throwing his election subversion case out

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York on October 4, 2023. — AFP
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York on October 4, 2023. — AFP

Lawyers of former US President Donald Trump filed a motion to US District Judge Tanya Chutkan asking her to throw out the charges of election subversion of 2020 Thursday stating that the 77-year-old is not liable for persecution for acts carried out while in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump is indicted in case of election subversion and provoking his supporters to storm Capitol Hill and stop the announcements of the results by falsely calling the polls rigged.

He is also indicted in three other cases which include paying hush money to an adult film star, retaining classified documents after leaving the White House and criminal racketeering in Georgia state to influence election outcomes. 

The trial in Washington is to start in March 2024.

In a motion containing 52 pages, the lawyer of the criminally charged former president urged US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, to throw the charges out.

“The Court should dismiss the indictment, with prejudice, on grounds of Presidential immunity,” Trump’s lawyers said.

Trump’s bid to invoke the presidential immunity defense is considered a long shot by legal observers but it could result in a delay to the start of the trial as the argument wends its way up to the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

Trump’s attempts to use the so-called “absolute immunity” defence in other cases have been rebuffed by judges, but the nation’s highest court has never ruled directly on whether a former chief executive is immune from criminal prosecution.

Trump is the first former US president to face criminal charges.

Trump’s attorneys, citing a Supreme Court case involving former president Richard Nixon, said the law provides “absolute immunity” to the president “for acts within the outer perimeter of his official responsibility.”

“Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the ‘outer perimeter,’ but at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,” they said.

As chief executive, they argued, the 77-year-old had a responsibility to “ensure election integrity” and was within his rights to challenge the results of the 2020 vote.

“The prosecution falsely claims that President Trump´s motives were impure — that he purportedly knew that the widespread reports of fraud and election irregularities were untrue but sought to address them anyway,” they said.

“The indictment is based entirely on alleged actions within the heartland of President Trump’s official duties, or at the very least, within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his official duties.

“As President Trump is absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for such acts, the Court should dismiss the indictment.”

Serious question

While making the argument that Trump cannot be prosecuted, his lawyers acknowledged the Nixon case they cited involved the civil liability of a former president and not alleged criminal conduct.

“No court has addressed whether such Presidential immunity includes immunity from criminal prosecution for the President’s official act,” they said adding that “the question remains a ‘serious and unsettled question’ of law.”

The case before Chutkan accuses the billionaire of conspiracy to defraud the US and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding — the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress that was attacked by a mob of Trump supporters.

Trump, the sole defendant in this indictment, is also accused of seeking to disenfranchise American voters with his false claims he won the 2020 election.

Other criminal cases against Trump include racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state and a trial in Florida in May 2024 on charges of mishandling top-secret government documents.

Trump and his two eldest sons are also currently facing a civil fraud trial in New York for inflating the value of their real estate assets to receive more favourable bank loans and insurance terms.

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