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Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch Issues Caution During Trump Hearing

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch argued that former presidents, such as Donald Trump, ought to enjoy some immunity from subsequent attacks if they leave office.

“It didn’t matter what the president’s motives were; that’s something courts shouldn’t get engaged in … I am concerned about future uses of criminal law to target political opponents based on accusations about their motives,” the Supreme Court justice said on April 25.

President Donald Trump appointed Gorsuch, who commented on oral arguments with the other eight justices regarding the former president’s immunity from prosecution in a case involving the election that Special Counsel Jack Smith had brought. Trump filed an appeal in the case, saying he should have complete immunity.

Gorsuch hinted during the hearing that if the Supreme Court decides not to hold that presidents should have some degree of immunity, then future presidents may be able to pardon themselves before leaving office. The judge said he didn’t want to decide whether or not a president could exercise that power, as the Epoch Times noted.

“We’ve never answered whether a president can do that; happily, it’s never been presented to us,” Justice Gorsuch said of whether a president can issue a pardon to himself before leaving office.

“What would happen if presidents were under fear that their successors would criminally prosecute them for their acts in office?” Justice Gorsuch also asked, citing a hypothetical situation in which former President Barack Obama could face prosecution for ordering a drone strike that killed civilians.

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He and several other conservative-leaning justices said that they were less concerned about President Trump’s charges but more concerned about the Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity in general.

“We’re writing a rule for the ages,” he stated.

Many Supreme Court justices seemed doubtful during the hearing that Trump should be given complete immunity from prosecution in Smith’s case.

A recent District of Columbia appeals court decision that dismissed Trump’s arguments for immunity, however, raised concerns from a few of the justices.

“Whatever we decide is going to apply to all future presidents,” Justice Samuel Alito added.

Every time attorney Michael Dreeben of the Justice Department attempted to concentrate on Trump, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Gorsuch intervened.

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Justice Kavanaugh stated, “This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency, and for the future of the country.”

Smith’s team is requesting a prompt resolution in the interim. Usually, four months before the election, at the end of June, the court releases its final opinions. Pretrial matters could take up to three months, according to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who would oversee the trial.

Some legal experts have stated that it is unclear if the Trump federal election case will go to trial before the November election based on the Supreme Court justices’ questioning last week.

D. John Sauer, President Trump’s lawyer, argued before the Supreme Court that former presidents ought to be exempt from punishment for anything they did while serving in their official capacity. If not, he continued, political rival prosecutors might single them out after they leave the White House on false accusations.

Chief Justice John Roberts was among the justices who hinted that presidents shouldn’t be exempt from prosecution in any capacity. He inquired about the possibility of an indictment against a president for accepting a bribe in return for an appointment as an ambassador.

He questioned, “That’s like a one-legged stool, right?”

On April 25, President Trump declared his desire to visit the Supreme Court.

Instead, he was in a New York courtroom, facing charges that he had directed “hush money” payments to an adult film actress to silence her claims of an alleged encounter, which he denies, and that he had falsified business records to hide damaging information from voters.

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