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US President Joe Biden (left) and former US President Donald Trump (right) | Credits: Getty Images
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Legal Showdown: Trump’s Final Move – Biden on Trial?

United States: Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that if Joe Biden returns to the White House, he could face prosecution, as Washington appeals court justices questioned the former president’s claims that he is immune from criminal penalties for attempting to reverse the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, the Republican’s lawyers attempted to persuade the three justices that a federal criminal case alleging Trump with election subversion should be dismissed before the March trial date.

With the Republican state-by-state presidential nomination race set to begin next week, Trump is using the hearing to argue he is a victim of political persecution.

The United States Justice Department has traditionally argued that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted for their activities while in office, and Trump claims that this should also apply to previous presidents.

Potential Future Prosecution

If the case is permitted to proceed, Trump stated that if he wins the presidential election in November, he may prosecute Democrat Joe Biden.

“If I don’t get immunity, then crooked Joe Biden doesn’t get immunity,” Trump said in a video posted on social media. “Joe would be ripe for indictment.”

Former US President – Donald Trump | Credits: Bloomberg

Trump is expected to easily win Monday’s contest in Iowa. He lost to Biden in the 2020 race and has opened up a commanding lead over his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination since the first criminal accusation against him was filed in March.

Legal Arguments and Receptions

Trump’s attorney, D. John Sauer, told a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that prosecuting prior presidents would “open a Pandora’s Box from which that nation may never recover.” He received a suspicious reception.

“You’re saying a president could sell pardons, could sell military secrets, could tell SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival?” Judge Florence Pan asked him.

Sauer stated that if that were part of a president’s formal duties, he would have to be impeached and removed from office by Congress before he could face charges. Trump was impeached twice, but the Senate refused to convict him. 

Smith’s Take

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution, has claimed that establishing such broad legal protection would allow future presidents to conduct crimes such as accepting bribes or ordering the FBI to plant evidence on political opponents.

Special Counsel Jack Smith | Credits: AP Photo

Smith has suggested that when Trump pressed officials to reject the election results and pushed his supporters to march to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, he was acting as a candidate rather than a president.

Critical Decision

Both the legal outcome and the date of the appeals court’s decision will be critical in determining whether Trump faces trial before the November 5, 2024, election.

Smith has accused Trump of multiple conspiracies, including the counting and certification of his defeat, culminating in the January 6 attack. He hasn’t pleaded guilty to charges that include cheating the government and obstructing Congress.

The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces this year as he campaigned to reclaim the presidency.

Trump’s immunity claim has previously been denied by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who supervises the case. However, it may take several weeks or months to settle the appeal.

Trial Delays

Any verdict by the appeals court is almost expected to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which last month declined Smith’s plea to consider the case promptly.

Meanwhile, activity in the case has been suspended, which may cause the trial to begin later than expected on March 4.

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