An Appeals Court Rejected Trump’s Claim of Immunity

A panel of three federal appeals court judges today unanimously rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he was immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to subvert the results of the 2020 election because he was president at the time. The judges ruled that he was subject to federal criminal law and must stand trial.

It is unlikely that the appeals court will have the final word: Trump is expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, and the result there could determine whether the former president will stand trial before the next election.

Still, the panel’s ruling signaled an important moment in American jurisprudence. Before today, an appeals court had never answered the question of whether former presidents can be held accountable for things they did while in office. And in their ruling, the judges, two appointed by Democrats and one by a Republican, cast Trump’s immunity claims as potentially dangerous.

“Former President Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three branches,” they wrote.