A federal appeals court has unanimously ruled that Donald Trump can be put on trial for trying to stay in power after losing the 2020 election, rejecting Trump’s sweeping claim of presidential power that one judge feared could allow for political assassinations. “For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution,” the panel of three judges wrote.
Trump has already indicated he plans to ask the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling. While his legal arguments keep failing in court, even rulings against him aid his goal of delaying any federal trial in D.C. until after the presidential election.
That trial had been scheduled for March 4, one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces while simultaneously campaigning to regain the White House. But it was delayed last week, while the appeals process on the immunity issue continued Trump remains the leading Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election, having handily defeated his rivals in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
The Justice Department has long held that a current president cannot be prosecuted. But Trump raised the novel claim that former presidents cannot either, at least for actions related to their official duties, unless impeached and convicted by Congress first. Having been acquitted by the Senate of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Trump said that to try him in federal court would be a double jeopardy violation.