Donald Trump does not have presidential immunity and can be prosecuted, court rules

The decision marks the second time in as many months that judges have thrown out Trump's immunity arguments, ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

Donald Trump can face trial on charges to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election, after his claims that he is immune from prosecution were rubbished by a federal appeals panel.

The decision marks the second time in as many months that judges have thrown out the former president's immunity arguments.

Additionally, he can be prosecuted for actions undertaken while in the White House and in the run-up to the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

The judges gave Trump until February 12 to ask the Supreme Court to pause the ruling.

The trial date carries enormous political ramifications, with special counsel Jack Smith's team hoping to prosecute Trump this year and the Republican primary front-runner seeking to delay it until after the November election.

If Trump were to defeat President Joe Biden, he could presumably try to use his position as head of the executive branch to order a new attorney general to dismiss the federal cases or he potentially could seek a pardon for himself.

Rioters loyal to Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol on January 6 2021. Credit: AP

“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,”the judges wrote.

“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

Judges also sharply rejected Trump’s claim that “a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralise 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,” they wrote.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

The Supreme Court has held that presidents are immune from civil liability for official acts, and Trump’s lawyers have for months argued that such protection should be extended to criminal prosecution as well.

They said the actions Trump was accused of in his failed bid to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Biden, including badgering his vice president to refuse to certify the results of the election, all fell within the “outer perimeters” of a president’s official acts.

But Smith’s team has said that no such immunity exists in the US Constitution or in prior cases and that, in any event, Trump’s actions were not part of his official duties.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, rejected Trump’s arguments in a December 1 opinion that said the office of the president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass”.

The case in Washington is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces as he seeks to reclaim the White House this year.

He faces federal charges in Florida that he illegally retained classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, a case that was also brought by Smith and is set for trial in May.

He is also charged in state court in Georgia with scheming to subvert that state’s 2020 election and in New York in connection with hush money payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...