Donald Trump ‘will lose’ in Supreme Court immunity ruling: lawyer

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue its long-awaited ruling on Donald Trump’s presidential immunity case, constitutional law expert and attorney Matthew Seligman said Saturday that regardless of the Court’s decision, the former president faces trial and ultimately “loses” in his bid to gain immunity.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. The riots erupted following Trump’s claims that he had been robbed elections through widespread voter fraud, despite there being no evidence to support his claims.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024, was indicted by Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith in August 2023 for his alleged actions surrounding the riot. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against human rights.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule Monday in a case brought by the former president over whether he has presidential immunity for “official acts” performed while in the White House.

During an interview on the MSNBC program The Katie Phang ShowSeligman, a fellow at the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, explained that while the Court is expected to recognize some level of presidential immunity, the extent of that protection remains uncertain.

“The Court is certain to say that certain presidential conduct is immune,” Seligman said. “You cannot invent a crime, for example, to veto a bill.”

However, Seligman reiterated that even if the court were to grant Trump the broadest possible immunity for official acts committed during his presidency, it would not completely shield him from prosecution.

“Even if the Court gives (former) President Trump everything he wants, that he is immune for every official act he performed while he was president, he will still be subject to a trial,” he added.

Former President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” policy conference on June 22 in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue its long-awaited ruling. ..

Getty Images/Samuel Corum

The lawyer noted that most of the conduct alleged in the Trump indictment falls outside the scope of the president’s official duties. “The vast majority of the conduct he is accused of is clearly unofficial conduct,” Seligman explained. He noted that much of the alleged conduct took place in his capacity as a candidate trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and not as a sitting president.

Week of news reached out to Trump’s spokesman by email on Saturday for comment.

In a separate op-ed for MSNBC, Seligman delved into the implications of the Court’s recent ruling in Fischer v. United Stateswhich narrowed the scope of a charge used against many of the Jan. 6 defendants. Contrary to some interpretations, Seligman argues that this ruling does not significantly benefit Trump or other Capitol riot defendants.

“The court’s interpretation actually has the potential to strengthen the prosecutions against both Fischer and his ilk and Trump,” he wrote. He explained that the Court’s middle-of-the-road approach still covers Trump’s alleged conduct, particularly his alleged efforts to interfere with Congress’ recognition of genuine election certificates.

“Trump is alleged to have masterminded a scheme to interfere with Congress’s recognition of genuine election certificates on January 6,” Seligman added. “He undoubtedly ‘impaired the availability or integrity’ of those certificates by arranging for the submission of competing fraudulent certificates and by pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to ignore the genuine ones.”

In The Katie Phang ShowSeligman shared his frustration with the delays caused by these legal proceedings, highlighting a pattern of “judicial epicycles” in Trump’s various legal cases. “We’ve been here for seven months now waiting for the Supreme Court to tell us what the rule is. When it doesn’t matter what the rule is, Donald Trump is going to lose,” he said.

Katie Phang, host of the self-titled MSNBC show and former prosecutor, offered additional information on the possible consequences of the Court’s ruling. Phang predicted that the high court would likely order U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal case, to determine which of Trump’s alleged acts fall within presidential powers and which are outside the scope of protection.

“I believe, like others, that Judge Chutkan will be told that she must make a decision about what conduct, as alleged in the indictment, is ‘official acts as president’ and what conduct is ‘unofficial acts,'” Phang said. “Unofficial acts do not get immunity.”

Phang further suggested that Chutkan would move quickly to address these issues once the Supreme Court provides guidance. “I’m a believer and I’ve been pushing this idea that Judge Chutkan will conduct an evidentiary hearing and I think she’ll be putting her foot down very soon,” she added.

This potential evidentiary hearing could give Smith the opportunity to present a full account of the case against Trump.

“You’ll see special prosecutor Jack Smith conduct what I’m going to call a mini-trial during the course of the evidentiary hearing so that the American people can hear what Donald Trump did,” Phang added.