Updated Jan 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump warns of "bedlam in the country" if he loses election while being prosecuted

Trump leaving a D.C. appeals court on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Former President Trump warned on Tuesday following a court appearance in his Jan. 6 case that there will be "bedlam" to come if the charges result in him losing the presidential election.

Why it matters: Trump's rhetoric has turned increasingly violent as he vies for a second term in office while under four indictments.

  • Trump's legal team has been arguing that he is immune from charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in both the federal and state cases against him.
  • The three-judge panel appeared inclined to reject Trump's immunity claims in the federal case, though they did not say when or how they will rule, AP reports.

When one judge on the panel asked whether a president would be immune from prosecution if they ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a rival, Trump's lawyer argued the president could only be prosecuted in such a scenario if first impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.

  • Replying to that argument, a member of special counsel Jack Smith's team said, "What kind of world are we living in?"

Driving the news: Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the charges against him as politically motivated, said Tuesday that "there will be bedlam in the country" if the charges hurt his candidacy.

  • "It's the opening of a pandora's box," he said, repeating a common refrain. "It's a very sad thing that's happened with this whole situation. When they talk about threat to democracy, that's your real threat to democracy," Trump continued.
  • "I feel that as a president you have to have immunity — very simple."

Between the lines: Legally speaking, it's nowhere near that simple.

  • The theory of presidential immunity from criminal charges is legally untested, primarily because before Trump, no sitting or former president had been charged with a crime, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.
  • Trump's legal argument hinges on the claims that a president cannot be charged for actions he took while acting in an official presidential capacity, and that a president can only be criminally charged if he is the "party convicted" in a Senate impeachment trial.
  • A slew of lawyers and former officials — including some Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have argued that former presidents can still be charged for alleged offenses committed in office, even if not convicted by the Senate.

State of play: The Jan. 6 case has been paused while Trump appeals a lower-court rejection of his immunity claims.

  • The immunity fight could push back Trump's trial in the election interference case, which is due to begin on Mar. 4.
  • On Jan. 8, Trump also tried to claim immunity in the Georgia case, which concerns his alleged efforts to overturn the election results there.

Go deeper: Where the legal debate stands on whether Trump can pardon himself

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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