Trump claims immunity from prosecution in Georgia

Motion claims he cannot be charged for actions taken while president

Former President Donald Trump Monday asked a Fulton County judge to dismiss criminal charges against him because he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in the White House.

In a motion filed in Fulton County Superior Court, attorneys Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little argued the 13 felony charges filed against Trump here should be dismissed because the Republican’s efforts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia were part of his duties as president.

“From 1789 to 2023, no president ever faced criminal prosecution for acts committed while in office,” the attorneys argued in the motion. “That unbroken historic tradition of presidential immunity is rooted in the separation of powers and the text of the Constitution.”

The judge overseeing the federal Jan. 6 criminal case against Trump has already rejected Trump’s immunity claim. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the matter Tuesday.

Legal experts say Trump is unlikely to prevail on his immunity claims. But the motions could delay the cases against him beyond next November’s election.

That would mean voters would cast their ballots without knowing whether Trump is guilty of federal and state crimes. And if he wins re-election, it could allow Trump to squelch the criminal cases.

Trump faces racketeering, false statements and other charges in Fulton stemming from his effort to overturn Biden’s victory based on false voting fraud allegations. A trial has not been scheduled, though District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking an August start date.

Trump also faces federal charges for his election-related actions. That trial is set to begin March 4. But the date could be pushed back as federal judges consider the merits of Trump’s immunity claim.

In Monday’s motion, Sadow and Little mirrored the arguments Trump’s attorneys have made in Washington. Among them are that presidents are absolutely immune from prosecution under the U.S. Constitution. Trump’s Atlanta-based attorney argued allowing prosecutors to target the president for official actions would pose a “grave threat” to the separation of powers between the branches of government and would allow “the president’s political opponents to sap his strength and freedom of action.”

In the federal case, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan recently rejected Trump’s claim of absolute immunity, concluding the presidency “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.” She also wrote that “a president who knows that their actions may one day be held to criminal account will be motivated to take greater care that the laws are faithfully executed.”

The federal appeals court will take up the immunity issue Tuesday. Ultimately, it may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Georgia case, Trump’s attorneys filed two other motions to dismiss the charges Monday. The first cites due process concerns, arguing that Trump could not have reasonably foreseen that his political speech and conduct following the 2020 election could be criminalized. The other motion argues the charges should be dismissed because of double-jeopardy concerns, citing his acquittal on articles of impeachment in the U.S. Senate in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“President Trump has filed three persuasive, meritorious pretrial motions seeking a complete dismissal of the indictment and thus an end to the Fulton County district attorney’s politically-based prosecution,” Sadow said in a statement released Monday. “Also still pending is President Trump’s First Amendment as-applied challenge, which seeks the same relief.”