Donald Trump, Goodyear, AZ
President Donald J. Trump speaking at a "Make America Great Again" campaign rally in Goodyear, AZ. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As it turns out, federal judges do not seem to believe that presidents should have absolute power.

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In an effort to dismiss federal charges accusing him of staging coup, Donald Trump is relying on a curious argument: He, and his lawyers, are making the case that he cannot be held to account for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election because, as president at the time, he enjoys immunity for any act committed in office that did not result in an impeachment in Congress and a conviction in the Senate.

While that may sound like a brilliant legal strategy to Trump, it is an argument that was met with deep skepticism by three federal appeals court judges on Tuesday. 

As it turns out, they do not seem to believe that presidents should have this kind kind of absolute power, which would, in theory, allow them to have political rivals murdered and then resign before they can be impeached (Trump previously claimed that he could not be impeached for sparking an insurrection because he was no longer in office).

Of course, they wouldn’t even have to resign; they could just kill any senator who is planning on voting to convict that president. 

What Trump also has failed to consider is that, if he prevails with his argument, he would essentially give President Joe Biden a “get-out-of-jail-free” card akin to that in Monopoly. 

With this kind of carte blanche, Biden could then do all of the things Republicans are already accusing him of. 

Trump is arguing that his quest to uncover “election fraud” in 2020 was part of his presidential duties, which makes him immune from prosecution (never mind that he never found any evidence and lost dozens of court cases). However, using that line of “logic,” what would stop Biden from taking any action necessary to disqualify, harass, incarcerate, etc. Trump, whom the president views as a threat to democracy? 

The case can be made that it would be part of Biden’s “presidential duties” to prevent a wannabe dictator from seizing power. 

It goes without saying that all of this is complete nonsense.

Of course, Trump likely knows that he will not prevail with this spurious argument. Instead, he has now effectively delayed proceedings, which is probably his real goal. 

Ultimately, this case will end up before the Supreme Court, and even though Trump appointed one-third of its members (and conservative justices outnumber progressive ones 6 to 3), it is hard to see how the court would give a president dictator-like powers. 

Still, even with the final outcome not in much doubt, this latest legal maneuver has bought Trump precious weeks in his quest to delay a trial until after the election. 

It is a strategy that has worked for him many times in the past and, therefore, even though the judges seemed inclined to rule against the former president, Trump, who attended the hearing today, must be pleased with what transpired. 

Because his ultimate goal is obviously not justice but rather delaying it so that he may be in a position next year to either have the case dismissed or simply pardon himself. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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