US Supreme Court rules Trump cannot be prosecuted for acts within his constitutional powers

The US Supreme Court has ruled that Donald Trump is immune from prosecution for actions taken while he was in office, in a landmark decision that recognizes a form of presidential immunity for the first time. The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, threw out a lower court ruling that rejected Trump's claim of immunity regarding federal criminal charges stemming from his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.

The court ruled that former presidents are absolutely immune for actions taken within their core constitutional powers, and at least presumptively immune for actions within the "outer perimeter" of their official responsibilities. Roberts stated that the immunity is necessary for a president to "execute the duties of his office fearlessly and fairly" without the threat of prosecution. The three liberal justices of the court dissented, arguing that the ruling creates a "law-free zone around the president" and that a president is now "a king above the law."

The decision is a significant victory for Trump, as it significantly strengthens his immunity defense and could scuttle parts of the special counsel's case against him. It is unlikely that Trump will be tried before the election on these charges, as the Supreme Court's slow handling of the case and its decision to return key questions to the trial judge make it improbable that Trump will be tried on these charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith. The decision comes as Trump is currently facing multiple criminal charges, including election subversion and obstruction charges in a separate case brought by Smith.

Critics of the decision argue that it underscores how the Supreme Court has played an increasingly integral role in Trump's efforts to remain in power, including overturning the 2020 election and potentially pardoning himself if he regains the presidency. They argue that the decision sets a dangerous precedent that puts the executive branch above the law, and that the court has created a fact-intensive test that significantly favors the president's immunity.

The Supreme Court's decision comes on the last day of its term, and marks the first time since the nation's founding that the court has declared that former presidents may be shielded from criminal charges in any instance. The court's conservative majority, including three justices Trump appointed, ruled in his favor. This decision is another setback for Democrats and critics of Trump who had hoped the Supreme Court would uphold the rule of law and hold the president accountable for his actions while in office.

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