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Trump Attempts to Sway Supreme Court, Justice System Again

Trump Counts on Supreme Court for Personal Immunity from Prosecution

As a private citizen and political candidate, former President Donald Trump is depending on a largely conservative Supreme Court, with three of the justices nominated by himself, to grant him absolute immunity from criminal prosecution. On Thursday, the court will deliberate on Trump's claim to shield him from proceedings based on federal charges by special counsel Jack Smith, stemming from actions after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.


Trump addressing an audience

Trump's continuous litigation, relating to both his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, casts a shadow over the ensuing race. Despite his objections to being in court, Trump uses this exposure to reinforce an image of political martyrdom. Trump claims that President Joe Biden is ""weaponizing the DOJ against his Political Opponent, ME,"" on Truth Social.


Controversies Surrounding the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is at the center of social and cultural debates, owing to decisions including eroding constitutional abortion rights and enhancing 2nd Amendment protections. The court's justices have faced criticism for questionable off-bench behavior and lack of transparency on conflicts of interest. Justice Clarence Thomas, in particular, has been urged to recuse himself from post-2020 Trump-related cases because of his wife's ties with Trump insiders.


Trump's nominations across the federal judiciary have significantly influenced American law. His appointments, including Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, supported the court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, contributing to the reversal of the constitutional right to abortion.


Question of Executive Branch Immunity

At the heart of the discussion is whether a former president is immune from criminal prosecution for actions while in office. Lower court judges ruled against Trump's assertion, remarking that any potential immunity ceased when he left office.


Despite not being present at the Supreme Court, Trump's influence is notable. His numerous social media posts about the justices during his presidency created tension and divided opinions within the court. In 2020, Chief Justice John Roberts encouraged justices to demonstrate greater unity in two disputes related to Trump's attempts to withhold his personal financial records from Manhattan prosecutors and congressional committees.

Trump's lawyers argue that denial of absolute immunity could lead to ""de facto blackmail and extortion while in office, and condemn (a president) to years of post-office trauma at the hands of political opponents."" However, Smith counters that past presidents have acknowledged potential criminal liability for official acts after office.


Supreme Court's Critical Decisions

The Supreme Court's 2023-24 session is set to be consequential, with cases involving abortion pills, gun control, and federal regulatory power. Trump's insistence on an unprecedented interpretation of absolute presidential immunity from criminal trial heightens the drama.


Smith argues that precedent involving the separation of powers indicates that former presidents can be criminally prosecuted for their actions in office. He asserts that the president's constitutional duty to ""take care that the laws be faithfully executed"" does not grant a general right to violate them.


Trump's legal team contends that courts cannot pass judgment on a president's official acts, either before or after leaving office. ""From Marbury through Fitzgerald, and beyond, this Court has consistently held that (federal) courts cannot sit in judgment directly over the President’s official acts, whether before or after he leaves office,"" they wrote. "

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