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Trump argues ‘presidential immunity’ to try to dismiss Jan. 6-related criminal charges

Former president argues in part that he cannot be tried again after the Senate impeachment failed to convict him

Former President Donald Trump addresses the press during a lunch break on the third day of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump addresses the press during a lunch break on the third day of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday in New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss the charges connected to his effort to overturn the 2020 election, arguing he is immune to federal charges for actions he took when he was president.

In a motion to dismiss “based on presidential immunity,” Trump’s attorneys attack the premise of the four federal felony charges against him in Washington because they say his actions fell within his duties as president.

A grand jury indicted Trump on four federal charges in August, alleging Trump led a monthslong effort to overturn the 2020 election, spread false claims of fraud and ultimately encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the Electoral College votes of states Trump lost.

Trump’s filing argues he acted as president to protect “election integrity,” which is a core function of the office. His attorneys pointed to a civil case against President Richard Nixon that was dismissed because the allegations in the suit fell within the “outer perimeter of his duties as president.”

“Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the ‘outer perimeter,’ but at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,” the filing states.

The filing also pointed to Trump’s acquittal in a Senate impeachment trial in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. He argued that he cannot be tried again after the Senate failed to convict and remove him from office.

“The Special Counsel cannot second-guess the judgment of the duly elected United States Senate,” the filing said.

That argument clashes with what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the Senate declined to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, including that “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.”

“We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said at the time. “We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”

Trump’s motion will be decided on by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who has already ruled against Trump on several other issues, including efforts to have her recuse herself from the case and set a trial date after the 2024 election.

Trump’s attorneys will already appear before Chutkan on Oct. 16 on a request from prosecutors for a gag order against the former president due to his statements about the case.

Thursday’s filing also hints that Trump will make similar arguments in a Georgia case against him. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought state charges against Trump tied to his effort to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia.

“Vertical and horizontal separation of powers simply cannot permit local, state, or subsequent federal officials to constrain the President’s exercise of executive judgment through threats of criminal prosecution,” Trump’s filing said.

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