(The Hill) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) vociferously urged the court to reject an effort from former President Trump to toss his election interference charges, arguing his status as a president while seeking to block the transfer of power offers no immunity from prosecution.
The 54-page brief comes after Trump earlier this month asked the judge overseeing the case to toss the charges, arguing he is protected by presidential immunity.
“That novel approach to immunity would contravene the fundamental principle that ‘[no] man in this country is so high that he is above the law.’ The defendant is not above the law. He is subject to the federal criminal laws like more than 330 million other Americans, including Members of Congress, federal judges, and everyday citizens,” the DOJ wrote in the Thursday brief.
“None of the sources the defendant points to in his motion — the Constitution’s text and structure, history and tradition, or Supreme Court precedent — supports the absolute immunity he asks the Court to create for him.”
Trump’s earlier motion to dismiss the case was a vigorous defense of his actions leading up to the riot, actions the Justice Department has argued stripped citizens of the right to have their vote counted and that were built on a mountain of fraudulent claims.
But the Justice Department noted that while presidents do have some protections related to the job while fulfilling the role, including from civil suits, they lapse once the executive is no longer in office.
“An individual who has served as President of the United States but is no longer in office may face investigation, indictment, trial, and, if convicted, punishment for conduct committed during the presidency. No court has ever alluded to the existence of absolute criminal immunity for former presidents,” the DOJ wrote.
“Legal principles, historical evidence, and policy rationales demonstrate that once out of office, a former president is subject to federal criminal prosecution like other citizens.”
The brief is an expected rejection of Trump’s long-shot bid to sink the case, one likely to face a tough audience with Judge Tanya Chutkan, who rejected another move from Trump’s team asking her to recuse herself from the case.
Chutkan earlier this week also largely sided with the DOJ, issuing a gag order that bars Trump from attacking foreseeable witnesses in the case, as well as prosecutors and court personnel, arguing his statement could intimidate witnesses and have spurred threats against staff.
In his own brief, Trump pointed to his second impeachment, noting the Senate failed to boot him from office after his efforts to resist the peaceful transfer of power were swiftly brought before the upper chamber.
But the Justice Department said Trump was trying to “turn the Impeachment Judgment Clause on its head” by reading it as “a sweeping grant of immunity that forbids criminal prosecution in the absence of a Senate conviction — which, among other things, would effectively preclude any form of accountability for a president who commits crimes at the end of his term of office.”
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