Saturday, July 20, 2024

Because US presidents are (almost) untouchable.

Date:



And now? Less than a week after his televised victory over his rival, Donald Trump (pictured) now appears to be sailing towards a second term thanks to a Supreme Court ruling. Yes, because if the outcome of the CNN debate was somewhat overshadowed by the hype surrounding the Biden debacle, Monday’s ruling by the nation’s top federal judges gives him a good boost. It was not a given. On the other hand, the ruling leaves no room for doubt. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that US presidents are entitled to “absolute immunity” from prosecution for “official acts.” For the court, in essence, former President Donald Trump in this case enjoys absolute immunity with respect to his main constitutional powers. The (six) judges have also of course held that former presidents are not entitled to immunity from legal process for acts they perform in their private capacity, leaving it to local judges to interpret which acts fall within this category. But whatever the next legal interpretation, the political outcome is only one: In the presidential race, Trump leads Biden 2-0, in less than a week.

The businessman’s satisfaction was clear when he said he was “honored to be an American, because this is a great victory for our Constitution and our democracy,” thanking the justices who ruled in his favor, who were only partially appointed by him, for their outstanding service to the nation. And the boots? “The ruling does not change the facts, so let’s be very clear about what happened on January 6: Donald Trump criticized the results of his 2020 election loss and encouraged a crowd to overturn the results of a campaign,” the Biden campaign said in a statement. That ended in a free and fair election. However, the ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, rejected a lower court’s decision to deny Trump’s bid for immunity from federal criminal charges in connection with his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden. At this point, the Supreme Court’s slow handling of the case — a peculiarity not limited to our judicial system — as well as its decision to send key questions about the scope of Donald’s immunity to the lower courts, makes the matter even more complicated. Trump is unlikely to face trial on election subversion charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith before the November election.

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Yet Biden’s path to reelection looks increasingly arduous. And he himself, stigmatized by his predecessor’s failure to win reelection, now finds himself having to confront this new problem. The gaffe in the first presidential debate on CNN was not enough. The justices of the federal Supreme Court, who gathered on Monday in Washington at 1 First Street—a stone’s throw from the Capitol—have made his path to reelection even more vexing, precisely at this very tortuous moment for Trump.

Will the appeals of Obama, Clinton, Sharon Stone and many others be enough to revive the president’s fortunes? We’ll see. Meanwhile, Nikki and Haley stand at the window watching and enjoying the show. In the moment. Ready to vote, and still able to count.

*Sociologist of Political and Legal Phenomena, University of LOMSA

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