February 26, 2024

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Donald Trump does not have immunity from criminal charges for actions he took as president, rejecting his bid to dismiss the case filed by Special Counsel Jack Smith accusing him of unlawfully trying to overturn his 2020 election loss. Chutkan’s ruling is the first by a US court affirming that presidents can be charged with crimes like any other citizen. Trump is the first current or former US president to face criminal charges. Chutkan’s ruling brings Trump a step closer to facing a jury on charges that he plotted to interfere in the counting of electoral votes and obstruct congressional certification of Biden’s victory. The trial is scheduled to begin in March. Trump can immediately appeal the ruling, potentially delaying the trial while an appeals court and potentially the Supreme Court weigh the issue. Trump has additional pending legal motions to dismiss the case based on other claims. The US Justice Department long has had an internal policy not to indict a sitting president, but prosecutors said no such restrictions exist once a president leaves the White House. Trump’s lawyers had claimed he is “absolutely immune” from charges arising from official actions he took as president. His defense team argued that the immunity US presidents have from civil lawsuits should extend to criminal charges. Prosecutors contended that Trump’s argument would essentially put the US president above the law, violating foundational principles of the Constitution.