Supreme Court Gives Trump Substantial Immunity From Prosecution

The ruling makes a distinction between official conduct of a president and the actions of a private citizen. A dissent from the liberal wing laments a vast expansion of presidential power. 

By Adam Liptak
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that former President Donald J. Trump is entitled to substantial immunity from prosecution, delivering a major statement on the scope of presidential power. The vote was 6 to 3, dividing along partisan lines.
The decision will almost surely delay the trial of the case against him on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election past the coming election in November. If that happens and Mr. Trump wins, he could order the Justice Department to drop the charges.
Here’s what to know:
  • The ruling: The justices said that Mr. Trump is immune from prosecution for official acts taken during his presidency but that there was a crucial distinction between official and private conduct. Broad immunity for official conduct is needed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, to protect “an energetic, independent executive.” Read the full article about the ruling.
  • A vehement dissent: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by her liberal colleagues, Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote that the decision was gravely misguided. “The court effectively creates a law-free zone around the president, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the founding,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. Read more about the dissent here.
  • The trial timing: The prospects for a trial in the 2020 election interference case before this November’s election seem vanishingly remote. The case returns to the lower court, which will decide whether the actions Mr. Trump took were in an official or private capacity. The process could take a while to conduct as well as to prepare for.
  • The charges: The former president faces three charges of conspiracy and one count of obstructing an official proceeding, all related to his efforts to cling to the presidency after his 2020 loss. He was indicted last August by the special counsel, Jack Smith, in one of two federal criminal cases against him; the other relates to the F.B.I. raid on his private club, Mar-a-Lago, in August 2022 that recovered missing government documents.
  • Inside the court: The sense of anticipation was palpable inside the Supreme Court on Monday morning as the justices delivered the last blockbuster decision of the term.