Wednesday Briefing: A Legal Blow to Trump

Donald Trump is at the center of at least four separate criminal investigations.Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

A court rejected Trump’s immunity claim

A federal appeals court rejected Donald Trump’s claim of absolute immunity in a criminal indictment accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election. The court ruled that he was subject to federal criminal law — like any other American — and must stand trial.

The ruling is unlikely to be the final word. Trump, who is on track to win the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.

But it is an important moment in American law. The ruling answered a question that an appeals court had never addressed: Can former presidents escape being held accountable by the criminal justice system for things they did while in office?

“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 of judges wrote. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

What’s next: If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, there is a chance that a trial on the election charges would occur before the general election in November. But if the justices take their time, it is possible that a trial could be delayed until after the election. Were Trump to win, he would be in a position to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the case or even seek to pardon himself.

For more: Here is where each of Trump’s four criminal cases stand.

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