A three-judge federal appeals court panel decided Tuesday that former President Donald Trump can not claim presidential immunity over the charges against him for allegedly attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
The news comes just days after Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the Washington, D.C., case, delayed the trail that was originally scheduled for March 4.
“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the panel wrote Tuesday, per Axios. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution.”
The decision was made by judges Michelle Childs and Florence Pan, who were appointed by President Joe Biden, and Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush appointed.
The judges’ conclusions undermine Trump’s primary argument that his actions were within the scope of his presidential responsibilities and, therefore, protected him from legal accountability.
Special Prosecutor Jack Smith’s team argued that Trump’s actions as president related to the 2020 election were not part of his official duties.
“The trial date carries enormous political ramifications, with the Republican primary front-runner hoping to delay it until after the November election,” according to The Associated Press. If Trump were to win the 2024 presidential election, he may pardon himself or leverage his role as president to instruct a new attorney general to drop the federal lawsuits.
Trump’s legal team has the option to appeal the decision directly to the Supreme Court or request an en banc review at the appeals court first, which would involve a rehearing of the case by the entire D.C. Circuit.
“If immunity is not granted to a president, every future president who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement, per ABC News. “Without complete immunity, a president of the United States would not be able to properly function!”
“President Trump respectfully disagrees with the D.C. Circuit’s decision and will appeal it in order to safeguard the presidency and the Constitution,” Cheung added.
The D.C. Circuit set a Feb. 12 deadline for Trump to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court before it is implemented.