Trump Arrives In US Court To Claim "Absolute Immunity" From Prosecution

77-year-old Donald Trump arrived in a motorcade to attend an appeals court hearing at a federal courthouse just blocks away from the US Capitol rushed in by his supporters on January 6, 2021.

Trump Arrives In US Court To Claim 'Absolute Immunity' From Prosecution

Donald Trump was not required to attend the hearing. (File)


Donald Trump arrived in a Washington court Tuesday to argue that as a former US president, he should be immune from prosecution on charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

The 77-year-old Trump arrived in a motorcade to attend an appeals court hearing at a federal courthouse just blocks away from the US Capitol rushed in by his supporters on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to election winner Joe Biden.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to go on trial in Washington on March 4 on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction linked to his efforts to upend the 2020 vote.

Trump's attorneys have sought to quash the election interference charges with the novel argument that a former president enjoys "absolute immunity" and cannot be prosecuted for actions he took while in the White House.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is to preside over the historic trial, rejected the immunity claim last month, saying an ex-president does not have a "lifelong 'get-out-of-jail-free' pass."

Trump's "four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens," Chutkan said.

Trump appealed that decision and a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was hearing oral arguments in the case on Tuesday. Two of the judges were appointed by Democratic President Joe Biden while the third was named by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Trump was not required to attend the hearing.

His presence -- just days before the Republican presidential primary contests kick off in Iowa -- underlined his goal of making his fight against multiple criminal prosecutions part of his political campaign.

Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said he believes Trump, the first former US president ever to face criminal charges, faces an "uphill battle" in the immunity case.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social platform ahead of Tuesday's hearing, warned that a rejection of his immunity defense could lead to indictments of Biden if he returns to power.

"The least I am entitled to is Presidential Immunity on Fake Biden Indictments!" the 77-year-old ex-president said.

"If I don't get Immunity, then Crooked Joe Biden doesn't get Immunity," Trump said, claiming his 81-year-old Democratic opponent "would be ripe for Indictment."

'Fundamental question' 

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the election conspiracy case against Trump, had asked the US Supreme Court to take up the immunity claim on an expedited basis, bypassing the federal court of appeals.

"This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office," Smith said.

The special counsel has been trying to keep the March start date for Trump's trial on track while lawyers for the former president have sought repeatedly to delay it until after the November 2024 election, widely expected to be a rematch between Trump and Biden.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices nominated by Trump, denied Smith's request to immediately hear the case.

The DC appeals court decision -- wherever it lands -- is nonetheless likely to wind up with the nation's highest court eventually.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Trump's appeal of a ruling by Colorado's highest court that would keep him off the presidential primary ballot in the western state.

Trump also faces election-related charges in Georgia -- where he has also claimed immunity -- and has been indicted in Florida on charges of illegally taking large quantities of top-secret documents with him on leaving the White House.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives following the attack on the Capitol for "incitement of insurrection" but was acquitted, with Republican support, in the Senate.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)