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After immunity ruling, Biden urges voters to deliver verdict on Trump

‘The office will no longer be constrained by the law,’ president warns

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House Monday about the Supreme Court's ruling that presidents have immunity from prosecution for official acts.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House Monday about the Supreme Court's ruling that presidents have immunity from prosecution for official acts. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden urged voters to “dissent” from the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to give former President Donald Trump partial immunity for his acts in office after the 2020 election, saying the power of the presidency would have “virtually no limits.”

Breaking 6-3 along ideological lines, the high court’s conservative justices ruled that presidents, including former ones like Trump, should have total immunity for “core” official acts as described by the Constitution, and the presumption of immunity for all other official acts — but no immunity for unofficial acts, like campaign functions.

“This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America. Each of us is equal before the law,” Biden said after returning from the White House after an extended stay at Camp David and on the road following his sluggish debate Thursday against Trump. “No one — no one — is above the law, not even the president of the United States.

“But [after] today’s Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity that fundamentally changed. … For all practical purposes, today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do,” he said. “This is a fundamentally new principle, and it’s a dangerous precedent because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, including the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The president spoke from the Cross Hall that connects the White House’s East Room and State Dining Room, with the seal of the office of the president both on his blue lectern and over the polished brown door behind him. Biden at times grew animated, his voice rising and brow furrowing with a pointed index finger. But he also hewed closely to the teleprompter from which he read, and rarely looked directly at the camera.

Biden might have been standing in the executive mansion, but he shifted into campaign mode, issuing his latest warning about a possible second Trump term and highlighting the criminal case that the court’s latest ruling would disrupt, accusing Trump of trying to thwart the peaceful transition to Biden’s administration after losing the 2020 election.

“The only limits will be self-imposed by the president alone,” Biden said, at one point focusing on Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, saying “my predecessor sent a violent mob to the U.S. Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

“We all saw with our own eyes. We sat there and watched it happen that day,” Biden added. “I think it’s fair to say it’s one of the darkest days in the history of America. Now the man who sent that mob to the U.S. Capitol is facing potential criminal conviction. … The American people deserve to have an answer in the courts before the upcoming election.”

The Supreme Court referred several key aspects of that federal case back to a lower federal court, which will have to sort out several murky legal questions. That will take time, meaning a trial and decision in that case before Election Day in November “is highly, highly unlikely,” Biden said, calling it a “terrible disservice to the people of this nation.”

He closed his brief but forceful remarks by citing a dissenting opinion crafted by one of the high court’s liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor.

“I concur with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent today. She said, ‘In every use of official power a president is now a king above the law. With fear for our democracy, I dissent,’” Biden said, adding: “So should the American people — dissent. I dissent.”

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