Mar 19, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump asks Supreme Court for "absolute immunity" from Jan. 6 charges

Former President Trump speaking in Rome, Georgia, on March 9.

Former President Trump speaking in Rome, Georgia, on March 9. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former President Trump asked the Supreme Court in a filing on Tuesday to grant him immunity from charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Since being indicted in the election case and others, Trump has claimed vast presidential immunity privileges that, if granted by the Supreme Court, would greatly expand executive power in the U.S.

  • The timing of the Supreme Court's decision matters as much as the ruling itself, as the now-delayed trial over the elections charges can't go forward until the immunity matter is settled.

What's inside: Trump's lawyers claimed in Tuesday's brief that Trump shouldn't face charges because his actions before, during and after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were within the "outer perimeter" of the president's official duties.

  • They argue that if Trump isn't granted immunity, the presidency "cannot function" and remain independent because presidents would fear criminal prosecution for official acts once they leave office.
  • Trump's legal team in part based its argument for criminal immunity on the Supreme Court's ruling in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, even though its decision only granted the president immunity from civil damages.
  • They also claimed that Trump could not face criminal prosecution because he was not first convicted in the Senate's impeachment trial over his actions in the 2020 election.

Zoom in: Lower courts have rejected Trump's immunity claims, which until now, were legally untested.

Zoom out: Constitutional lawyers and legal experts have warned that Trump's claims, if validated, would have dire consequences for the rule of law.

  • If upheld, they could effectively immunize former presidents and other impeachable officials from criminal prosecution.
  • Trump's lawyers have argued in court that a president could only be criminally prosecuted for ordering the military to assassinate a political rival if he was first impeached and found guilty by Congress through the impeachment process.

What's next: The Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for the immunity claims for April 25.

Go deeper: What may happen if Trump can't secure $464M bond in New York fraud case

Go deeper