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Supreme Court Immunity Ruling May Delay Georgia Trial of Former President Trump

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Monday that former President Donald Trump has immunity from prosecution for certain “official” acts within the scope of his presidential duties but not for “unofficial” acts taken during his presidency, such as acts in his personal capacity or his capacity as a candidate running for reelection. This means the district court in the federal election interference case will need to go through a process to determine which acts charged against Trump are official and unofficial, thereby delaying trial in that case. Similarly, the judge hearing the case against Trump in Fulton County, Georgia may have to make similar determinations in the Georgia case, thereby potentially delaying the Georgia trial as well. 


Supreme Court Immunity Ruling

The ruling arose from a four-count federal criminal indictment against Trump In Washington, D.C. for allegedly seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election.  

 

In the opinion issued on Monday, the Court found that Trump likely had immunity for his communications with the Justice Department and perhaps also with then-Vice President Mike Pence. But communications with state officials in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to push a slate of fraudulent electors was different, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. 

 

“This alleged conduct cannot be neatly categorized as falling within a particular Presidential function,” he wrote. The high court sent the case to a lower court to sort out which actions are official, and which are not. 

 

One expert argued that the Supreme Court ruling would slow down Georgia’s separate bid to bring the former president and his allies to trial for pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others to change Georgia’s results so Trump would win the state.  

 

The decision may force the prosecution in Georgia to change its strategy, and respond to some new arguments, said Emory University School of Law Prof. Jonathan Nash. "Certainly, we’re at least going to get arguments about [this decision], whether there is immunity in the Georgia case," Nash said, adding that “setting up a scheme of fake electors is not something the constitution directly calls for.” 

 

The Court decision makes it unlikely that either the federal or the Georgia case will come to trial before the November presidential election. 

 

In addition to the trials in Washington, DC and Georgia related to election interference, Trump was found guilty of 34 felonies last month for falsifying business records to hide the fact that he paid $130,000 to an adult film actress so she would remain quiet about their affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He has also been federally indicted for illegally taking classified documents from the White House. 

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