WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is asking a federal judge to dismiss criminal charges against him based on his actions leading up to his Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt because, as president, that coup attempt should be considered part of his presidential duties.
Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and John Lauro, in Thursday’s 52-page filing to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, attempted to minimize Trump’s actions leading up to the violent assault on the Capitol that day and that, regardless, the law allowed Trump to act based on his belief that the election had been stolen from him.
“The indictment is based entirely on alleged actions within the heartland of President Trump’s official duties, or at the very least, within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his official duties,” Blanche and Lauro wrote. “As President Trump is absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for such acts, the court should dismiss the indictment.”
“President Trump’s alleged Tweets and public statements about fraud in the election and the role of the vice president in the certification process were directly related to his contentions that: (1) the presidential election’s outcome was tainted by fraud and other procedural irregularities, and (2) the U.S. Department of Justice and certain state governments had failed to adequately investigate and prosecute fraud and irregularities in the election,” Blanche and Lauro wrote.
They also argued that Supreme Court precedent acknowledged that a president needed to be able to take “bold and unhesitating action” at times without fear of prosecution, and that was what Trump was doing.
“Here, 234 years of unbroken historical practice — from 1789 until 2023 — provide compelling evidence that the power to indict a former president for his official acts does not exist,” they wrote.
Blanche and Lauro also argued that the only allowable means of punishing a president for his actions was an impeachment trial and removal by the U.S. Senate.
Trump was, in fact, impeached by the House for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, and 57 senators — including seven Republicans — voted to convict him, even though he was already out of office. That figure was 10 shy of what was needed to convict, which would likely have been followed by a majority vote to ban Trump from federal office forever.
“President Trump was acquitted of these charges after trial in the Senate, and he thus remains immune from prosecution,” Blanche and Lauro wrote. “The special counsel cannot second-guess the judgment of the duly elected United States Senate.”
Trump was indicted by U.S. Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith for conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstructing an official proceeding, attempting to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiring to deprive people of their voting rights. The charges are based on Trump’s attempts to block the Jan. 6 congressional certification of the 2020 election and his attempt to remain in power despite his loss in that contest using slates of fraudulent electors. If convicted on the most serious offenses, he could receive decades in federal prison.
Trump is under a separate federal indictment by Smith for his retention of secret documents at his Florida country club and his attempts to hide them from authorities when they sought their return.
A Georgia grand jury also indicted Trump for his attempts to overturn his election loss in that state, while a New York state grand jury indicted him for filing falsified business records to conceal a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.
Despite the 91 total felony counts against him, Trump nevertheless remains the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination by a wide margin.