February 22, 2024

“Could a President order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival?” Judge Florence Pan, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, asked D. John Sauer, a lawyer for Donald Trump, in oral arguments on Tuesday. Pan was one of three judges on an appeals panel hearing Trump’s argument—which seemed, in varying degrees, to appall them. It was a remarkable question for a remarkable political moment. Trump contends that, in the absence of an impeachment conviction, he is absolutely immune from prosecution for acts related to his official duties as President. Pan’s question about an assassination pointed out an official act, an order to SEAL Team 6. Sauer stalled and tried to qualify his answer by saying that such a President would need to be, and indeed “would speedily be,” impeached. Pan interrupted to say that that was more easily said than done, asking if a President who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached—would he be subject to criminal prosecution? As everyone in the courtroom knew, Trump was impeached (for the second time) by the House of Representatives after January 6th, but was then acquitted in his Senate trial. Trump is not quite arguing (at least his team wasn’t doing so at this hearing) that his acquittal means that he should be spared further proceedings because of double jeopardy; it is more like double-or-nothing jeopardy, with an impeachment conviction required before a criminal one can proceed. _ONCE_ Also jarring was what another of the three judges, Karen Henderson, called a “paradoxical” aspect of the Trump argument. His lawyers have argued that his attempts to get the results of the 2020 Presidential election overturned were related to his Presidential duty to _PLACEHOLDER_ they contended was the more appropriate means of holding an outgoing President accountable. Much of the problem here, of course, is Trump: how far afield of the law he allegedly went as President, and how much further he might go if elected again. Trump was in the courtroom for the oral arguments and afterward claimed that “by normal standards, if it weren’t me,” he would have already won the case. He then turned his attention to a legal filing by one of his co-defendants in the RICO case brought against him in Georgia, on charges related to the 2020 election, which alleges that the prosecutor, Fani Willis, has an improper personal relationship that compromises the case, with a private lawyer contracted to work with her team.© Considerably longer! We recommend you to continue reading.