Former US President Donald Trump is the first US president, current or former, to face criminal charges (agencies)
Washington — Former President Donald Trump continues to face a double legal crisis as he suffered a double legal blow last weekend: a federal court refused to grant him presidential immunity in the 2021 storming of the Capitol and another court accepted a civil lawsuit filed against him by two police officers tasked with protecting Congress, demanding huge damages for their severe injuries.
In the first case, a federal judge rejected Trump's attempt to drop charges of election interference on the basis of "presidential immunity" and asserted that Trump's indictment did not violate the First Amendment on freedom of expression. Trump is accused of illegally trying to reverse his electoral defeat.
In October, Trump's lawyers filed several motions to dismiss the case, citing a series of constitutional groundings including the First Amendment, double trial and due process. Two additional applications to dismiss the case are pending, on legal grounds and allegations of selective or retaliatory prosecution.
The court's president, Judge Tanya Chutkan, found there was no legal basis to conclude that presidents could not face criminal charges once they were not in office.
"Whatever immunities a president may have, the United States has only one chief executive per term, and that does not give a lifetime permit to the president after the end of his term," Judge Chotkan wrote. "The defendant's 4-year service as commander-in-chief of the armed forces did not give him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his citizens," it said.
The former president denied any wrongdoing, denounced the accusations as "persecution of a political opponent," and in their request for disapproval, Trump's lawyers argued that Trump's challenge to the election results was part of his official duties.
The ruling is the first by a U.S. court to confirm that presidents can be tried like any other citizen, and Trump is the first current or former U.S. president to face criminal charges. Trump's trial in this case is currently scheduled to begin on March 4 next year.
In the second case, a federal appeals court ruled that Trump could be prosecuted in a civilian court for his alleged role in instigating the January 2021, <> storming of the Capitol.
Capitol Police officers James Plasingem and Sidney Hemby have sued Trump for his actions. The two officers are seeking huge financial compensation from the former president, citing the emotional and physical injuries they sustained as Trump said in his speech to angry crowds that it was necessary to "fight hard" shortly before the violence began.
Trump's lawyers have argued that he is protected from lawsuits related to anything he did as part of his official duties. The Supreme Court had previously ruled that presidents could only be held responsible for anything that fell "outside" of their responsibilities.
But the judges found that Trump was acting as a candidate when he addressed the crowd, noting that he offered no reason why the speech "treated like his official State of the Union speeches, that he was nothing more than acting in his campaign quest for a second term."
"When a president in his first term chooses to seek a second term, his re-election campaign is not an official presidential act," court president Sri Srinivasan wrote. The judge added that the president "does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities."
Trump can still argue on future issues that he was acting as president, not as a candidate. He can also appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which has 6 Conservative and 3 Liberal judges.
However, the decision, which was taken unanimously, could pave the way for further lawsuits against Trump, over his alleged role in inciting violence.
Progress in the race
Trump also faces four separate criminal charges — including conspiracy to defraud the United States — related to his alleged efforts to overturn his defeat in the 4 presidential election in Georgia, and charges in Washington, D.C., for his role in the congressional attacks.
He also faces criminal charges related to his handling of classified government documents in Florida. In New York state, Trump, his family and Trump Organization executives are facing charges in a civil fraud trial. The judge in the case has already ruled that "the Trump Organization committed fraud."
Trump's huge legal troubles and challenges have not affected his chances of running for a second term. The group of Republicans seeking the party's nomination for the 2024 election is still leading against Biden.
Real Clear Politics reported that Trump led with an average of 62 percent of the vote, compared to 13.6 percent for his strongest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and 9.6 percent for Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina.
The riots erupted as lawmakers were meeting in Congress to certify President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. In the hours leading up, Trump addressed a rally in Washington, D.C., urging supporters to march to the Capitol, saying, "You're never going to get our country back with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong."
The raid killed several police officers, injured at least 138 Capitol police officers by rioters, and killed 4 police officers by suicide in the weeks following the attack.
Source : Al Jazeera