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“The President Is Now a King”: The Most Blistering Lines From Dissents in the Trump Immunity Case

By David Corn


“Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s momentous decision ruling that presidents are immune from criminal prosecution for “official” acts, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson issued blistering dissents. They blasted the reasoning of the six conservative justices who essentially created a new power for presidents. Each contended this decision poses a fundamental threat to American democracy and the rule of law.

This is how Sotomayor put it:

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military dissenting coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune. Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.

Jackson made a similar and distressing point:

Thus, even a hypothetical President who admits to having ordered the assassinations of his political rivals or critics, or one who indisputably instigates an unsuccessful coup has a fair shot at getting immunity under the majority’s new Presidential accountability model.

They each argued that the conservatives, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, had elevated the presidency to something akin to royalty. Sotomayor wrote:

The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.

Here are some of the most impassioned excerpts from their minority opinions:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency.  It makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of Government, that no man is above the law. Relying on little more than its own misguided wisdom about the need for “bold and unhesitating action” by the President, the Court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more.

The Court now confronts a question it has never had to answer in the Nation’s history: Whether a former President enjoys immunity from federal criminal prosecution. The majority thinks he should, and so it invents an a textual, a historical, and unjustifiable immunity that puts the President above the law.

Whether described as presumptive or absolute, under the majority’s rule, a President’s use of any official power for any purpose, even the most corrupt, is immune from prosecution. That is just as bad as it sounds, and it is baseless. Finally, the majority declares that evidence concerning acts for which the President is immune can play no role in any criminal prosecution against him. . That holding, which will prevent the Government from using a President’s official acts to prove knowledge or intent in prosecuting private offenses, is nonsensical…


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