American Oversight Statement on Appeals Court Rejection of Trump’s Immunity Claims

American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer issued the following statement following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s unanimous decision that former President Trump does not have immunity from criminal prosecution.

Statement from American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer:

“Former President Trump’s sweeping claim of presidential immunity was a dire threat to our democracy. We are glad the D.C. Circuit resoundingly rejected his claim that a president can commit crimes with impunity and avoid prosecution unless Congress impeaches and convicts him first. 

“We appreciate the Court’s careful consideration of our argument that Trump’s appeal was premature. By addressing the argument fully, the Court has removed the risk that this issue might be raised for the first time in any subsequent appeals, including to the Supreme Court, causing even more delay. Today’s important ruling affirms a core principle of our democracy — no one is above the law.”

In an amicus curiae brief that drew significant attention, American Oversight argued in late December that Trump’s appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan’s rejection of the former president’s immunity claims was premature and that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal until after he is tried by a jury, convicted, and sentenced. 

The court heard oral argument in Trump’s appeal, designed to delay his trial until after the 2024 election, on Jan. 9 and questioned the parties on whether it had jurisdiction. In today’s ruling, the court addressed the jurisdiction question early on, carefully considering American Oversight’s arguments but ultimately finding that it did have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Last week, Judge Chutkan vacated Trump’s original March 4 trial date, stating a new schedule will be determined pending the outcome of the immunity arguments. Trump could further delay the trial by seeking rehearing in the D.C. Circuit or ultimate review by the Supreme Court. 

In issuing today’s opinion, the appeals court quoted the Supreme Court: “No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it.” 

The appeals court added: “We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results. Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the Executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count.”