Trump warns of ‘bedlam’, appeals court skeptical of his immunity claim

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump warned on Tuesday (Jan 9) of “bedlam” in the United States if he is put on trial, following an appeals court hearing that appeared to lean towards rejecting his claim of presidential immunity.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, attended the high-stakes hearing held under tight security in a Washington courthouse just blocks from the US Capitol stormed by his supporters on Jan 6, 2021.

During the slightly more than one-hour session, a three-judge appeals court panel appeared deeply skeptical of arguments by Trump’s lawyer who said that as a former president, he should be immune from prosecution on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the 77-year-old Trump, who was not required to attend the hearing, accused Democrats and President Joe Biden, his likely opponent in the November election, of waging a “very unfair” politically motivated prosecution.

“They feel this is the way they’re going to try and win,” he said. “And that’s not the way it goes. It will be bedlam in the country.”

Trump, who was impeached twice by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives while in office but acquitted both times thanks to Republicans in the Senate, is scheduled to go on trial on March 4 on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election won by Biden.

Trump’s attorney John Sauer told the judges that a president can only be prosecuted for actions taken while in the White House if first impeached and convicted by Congress.

“To authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts would open a Pandora’s Box from which this nation may never recover,” Sauer said.

“The notion that criminal immunity for a president doesn’t exist is a shocking holding,” he said. “It would authorize, for example, the indictment of President Biden in the Western District of Texas after he leaves office for mismanaging the border.”

District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is to preside over Trump’s trial, rejected his immunity claim last month and the judges who heard his appeal on Tuesday also appeared unconvinced.

“I think it’s paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty ‘to take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ allows him to violate criminal laws,” said Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of former Republican president George HW Bush.

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