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US Supreme Court rules ex-Presidents have absolute immunity for official act, not unofficial acts

Washington, July 1: The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a former President is entitled to “absolute” immunity for clearly official acts, but not for unofficial acts. The ruling makes it impossible for former President Donald Trump’s trial for his alleged attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election before polling for the 2024 cycle ends in November.

In a 6-3 ruling along ideological lines, the court said the trial court would decide which of the acts in question were official or unofficial and those decisions would be appealable. Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said a President “may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers, and he is entitled, at a minimum, to a presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts”.

But, he went on to say, the President “enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official. The President is not above the law”. Trump had appealed to the court against a lower court order rejecting his claim of absolute immunity from prosecution.

A special prosecutor had charged him in August with four counts of conspiring to defraud the US by preventing the Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election and the next President. Trump faces two more cases, which seem unlikely to go to trial before the November election.

In a federal case, he is charged with mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House and in the second, which is a state case, he is charged with trying to overturn the outcome of the presidential election in the state of Georgia.

In a fourth case, also a state case, he was held guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records as regards payments to an adult film star to keep quiet about an affair with her. Former President Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for re-election in the November election and has been leading Biden in all polls, although by a slim margin. He and Biden had their first presidential debate which did not go well for the incumbent, who is now under pressure to quit the race and make way for someone younger.

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