Court kills Trump immunity claim, GOP’s Mayorkas impeachment fails
Serial misogynist, convicted sex abuser and criminally indicted ex-president, Donald Trump, after he heard from DC Appeals Court that he must be tried for trying to overturn an election and lead an insurrection. | Susan Walsh/AP

WASHINGTON—Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican devotees and disciples suffered a big double defeat on February 6. And for Trump, more losses may be forthcoming in court, including lost states in the Republican presidential race.

Trump’s loss came from a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., often called the nation’s second most-powerful court. The jurists ruled unanimously, with biting language, that Trump does not have perpetual presidential immunity from criminal prosecution—because he isn’t president.

So former Republican White House denizen Trump can’t claim immunity for his actions in arranging, aiding and abetting the Jan. 6, 2021 Trumpite invasion, insurrection and attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol. Remember that Trump’s lawyers argued against impeachment at the time that it was unnecessary because Trump would eventually face criminal charges. Now they reversed themselves, arguing that he could do anything and everything, up to and including ordering the military to assassinate his political opponents, and not be prosecuted for the crime unless he is first impeached.

“We cannot accept the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” the judges wrote. “For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump,” and can be prosecuted just like any common citizen charged as a criminal.

Meanwhile, just up Capitol Hill from the courthouse, the House’s MAGAites lost when their sham impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas went down the drain by a 214-216 margin. Three Republicans defected from the party consensus and joined every voting Democrat in beating the impeachment.

A political ploy

Impeaching Mayorkas was viewed as a political ploy to avoid dealing with problems at the U.S.-Mexico border. The first Republican to oppose impeachment, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., flatly wrote in an op-ed “The truth is this is a policy disagreement masked as an impeachment.”

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass, said of the GOP that the party was pushing for impeachment “without a single allegation of any impeachable crime. Not one. Impeaching a Cabinet member without any evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors. That is the breach of public trust here,” Clark said.

In court, the judges opened the way for continued prosecution of Trump, a serial sex abuser who’s been indicted on a combined 91 counts of criminal conduct: in New York state court for massive financial fraud, in Fulton County (Atlanta) court for racketeering and conspiracy to steal the 2020 election, and in D.C. and Florida federal courts for insurrection-related counts and for pilfering secret documents from the White House, respectively. He’s also showed them to unauthorized people, notably an Australian business magnate.

The appellate ruling, assuming it stands, would let U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan resume the delayed case in her court trying Trump for his role in the insurrection. Topping the four-count indictment: declaring Trump deprived citizens of their right to have their votes counted honestly and correctly.

Trump also faces other looming courtroom woes. He’s appealing the D.C. ruling and may take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, it’ll follow their current Trump case: On February 8, the nine justices will hear arguments about whether Colorado and Maine can throw Trump off their presidential ballots because he violated the Constitution by ordering the 2021 insurrection.

Trump named three of the justices and the right wing enjoys a five-justice High Court majority, but some legal scholars contend that while the case is unique, the two states have a legitimate argument.

After all, the constitutional clause they’re invoking, written in 1868, was originally aimed at Confederate President Jefferson Davis. That clause in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment bans inciters and aiders of rebellions from holding future federal or state office and getting paid for it.

That’s the same U.S. Constitution former Republican Oval Office occupant Trump tried repeatedly to violate to keep himself in the White House, the Justice Department contends in Judge Chutkan’s court.

And it’s the same Constitution that serial misogynist and financial fraudster Trump has said he wants to trash, setting himself up as a dictator, “on day one.”

Many legal scholars believe the Supreme Court justices will listen to both Judge Chutkan and the appeals court and rule against Trump’s immunity from prosecution.

Trump, of course, is making political hay out of all the trials as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and leads in that race. He’s turned courtrooms into campaign platforms, insulting prosecutors, judges, their aides and even the potential D.C. jury in Judge Chatkan’s court along the way.

But there’ll be one difference when the federal trials begin: Until now, Trump appeared in prior court sessions when he felt like it. But federal trial rules require a defendant—Trump or anyone else—always be present in court. Not out on the campaign trail.

Take them as gospel

In court or campaigning, Trump’s MAGAite followers take his pronouncements as gospel from their god. The rest of the country doesn’t. That includes Trump’s claim of permanent immunity from prosecution. A PBS-Marist College poll of 1,582 registered voters, from Jan, 29-Feb. 1, showed, 64%-35%, they believe he shouldn’t have it.

Democrats (91%-9%) and independents (65%-32%) are immunity foes. The Republicans said Trump should have immunity, by a 68%-31% count. The margin of error was 3.6 percentage points.

The GOP defeats in Congress yesterday are a reminder that they are in thrall to their right wing extremists, blowhards and its white nationalist base—and that the oarty is committed only to sham investigations.

The Mayorkas impeachment isn’t the only Republican dog-and-pony show. The House Judiciary and Oversight Committees are on an extended and unsuccessful fishing expedition for non-existent evidence tying Democratic President Joe Biden to the follies of his troubled son Hunter.

And as one Republican told The Hill, it was a question not of impeaching a Biden Cabinet member, but which one. The lawmaker didn’t name other targets.

The appellate judges, whose offices are within sight of the Capitol, had caustic words for another “breach of the public trust”—and of the Constitution—by Trump.

“We cannot accept” Trump’s “claim 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,” they wrote.

“Nor can we sanction his apparent contention the executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count.

“Former President Trump’s alleged efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election were, if proven, an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government. He allegedly injected himself into a process in which the president has no role—the counting and certifying of the Electoral College votes—thereby undermining constitutionally established procedures and the will of the Congress.

‘Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the president, the Congress could not legislate, the executive”—the Justice Department—”could not prosecute and the judiciary could not review. We cannot accept the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

All in all, it was not a good day for the fascist forces that, led by Trump, have a stranglehold on the Republican Party.

House Republican right wingers, including Marjorie Taylor Greene and Elise Stefanik, gave speeches late in the day defending strongly the right of Trump to do whatever he wishes with no controls or checks and balances from anywhere else. MSNBC commentator Joy Reid fought back tears after she showed that news clip and said, “to the people of the world who may be watching that I assure you those two don’t represent America. We are a lot better than that.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.