In a recent ruling, federal Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected a series of claims from former President Donald Trump challenging his federal indictment originating with Special Counsel Jack Smith, who accused him of a series of criminal conspiracies targeting the presidential election results from 2020. In short, Chutkan held that the foundation of Constitutional law did not protect potentially proven crimes committed while a former president held office.
Trump’s team had been trying to cite very wide-reaching immunity in their challenges to Smith’s case, arguing for essentially a presumption of protection for anything that would fall roughly within the confines of the presidency, a framework that the ex-president’s team has been attempting to apply to his post-election attacks on the documented results. Chutkan says there’s no basis.
“A former President accused of committing a crime while in office will be subject to only one federal prosecution for that offense, which in turn will only result in conviction if the grand jury finds probable cause and the prosecutor, judge, and all twelve petit jurors agree that the charges are legitimate and have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Chutkan wrote, adding: “In the rare case when a former President must do so, the Constitution does not proffer the sledgehammer of absolute immunity where the scalpel of procedural protections will suffice.”
In other words, she was pointing to the regular and rigorous safeguards of the criminal justice system as sufficient for addressing whatever legitimacy drove the concerns from Trump. A similar response has come up amid challenges to the prospective jury pool in some of these high-profile proceedings related to the post-2020 election period, with the jury selection process as it normally stands already set up to guard justice.
Elsewhere in the recent ruling, Chutkan noted the divergence between recounting given by the Trump team of the ex-president’s alleged conduct and the actual language of the indictment, underscoring the seriousness with which figures other than Trump are approaching this whole engagement. In short, Trump’s team leaned on descriptions emphasizing the supposed orientation around mere speech of the arguments against him, though free speech defenses from Trump have consistently failed. Read Chutkan’s ruling right here.