February 25, 2024

Donald Trump tore into President Biden and warned of ‘bedlam’ if his prosecution is allowed to go forward, in an angry statement just minutes after his lawyer argued in court he enjoys absolute immunity from his time as president.

Trump made the comments as he called the Biden administration a ‘threat to democracy’ and once again claimed to have uncovered ‘tremendous voter fraud’ despite multiple court findings rulings against his and his allies’ claims. 

‘It’s very unfair when a political opponent is prosecuted by the DOJ, by Biden’s DOJ. So they’re losing in every poll, losing in almost every demographic…numbers came out today that are really very mind-boggling if you happen to be Joe Biden,’ Trump said at a Washington, D.C. hotel. 

‘And I think they feel this is the way they’re going to try and win and that’s not the way it goes. It’ll be Bedlam in the country. It’s a very bad thing. It’s a very bad precedent. As we said it’s the opening of a Pandora’s Box,’ Trump said.

‘It’ll be Bedlam in the country,’ former President Donald Trump said Tuesday, speaking of what will happen if he faces prosecution despite his claim of ‘absolute immunity.’ His lawyer said he was facing a ‘political prosecution’

He was picking up on a phrase his lawyer John Sauer used in court, and one his lawyer John Lauro made alongside Trump, 

‘If we adopt what the Special Counsel wants, if we adopt what President Biden wants, then we open the Pandora’s box to political prosecution after political prosecution after political prosecution,’ said Lauro. ‘In fact, Joe Biden could be prosecuted for trying to stop this man from becoming the next President of the United States,’ he said. 

‘It’s a very sad thing that’s happened with this whole situation. When they talk about threat to democracy that’s your threat to democracy. And I feel that as a president you have to have immunity,’ Trump said.

A reporter shouted a question to Trump after he had completed his remarks about his ‘bedlam’ comment, and whether he would tell them ‘no matter what, no violence.’ Trump walked away without responding.

Trump was present inside the courtroom and spoke afterward

Trump was present inside the courtroom and spoke afterward

Trump warned of 'bedlam' if the prosecution against him continues

Trump warned of ‘bedlam’ if the prosecution against him continues

Trump then said Biden could be prosecuted for the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which came after a delayed departure date negotiated during the Trump administration, before saying immunity was necessary.

‘The lowest moment, I think, in the history of our country was Afghanistan – the way we withdrew. With shame. We surrendered. People were killed, 13 great soldiers killed…he [Biden] could be prosecuted for that. So you can’t have a president without immunity.’

Then Trump brought out President Obama’s ordering of drone strikes, ‘which were bad. They were mistakes, terrible mistakes.’ Still, he said, ‘You really can’t put a president into that position. So I think most people understand and we feel very confident that eventually hopefully at this level, but eventually we win. A president has to have immunity.’

He was referencing Obama’s ordering of hundreds of drone strikes to target Al Qaeda and other extremists in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. 

Trump spoke after a three-judge U.S. Appeals Court heard oral arguments inside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, located steps away from the Capitol where his supporters rioted on January 6 and from the former D.C. hotel that was a hub of activity during his presidency. (Trump sold the lease at an estimated $100 million profit).

Inside the courtroom, Trump’s attorney faced a blizzard of questions from the judges over his claims of presidential immunity – including whether he could use the military to assassinate a political rival.

Trump is trying to toss his criminal indictment over January 6 in Washington, D.C. in part on his immunity claims. 

He is arguing that the allegations against him fell within the perimeter of his official responsibilities as president while in office.

As Trump looked on in court appeal court judge Florence Pan asked his lawyer: ‘A yes or no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached, would he be subject to a criminal prosecution?’

Trump lawyer John Sauer, the former Missouri solicitor general, responded: ‘If he were impeached and convicted first.’ 

‘So your answer is no,’ shot back Pan.

‘My answer is qualified yes…you’d expect a speedy impeachment and conviction,’ Sauer said.

Donald Trump's lawyers will argue he is immune from criminal prosecution in election fraud cases in a federal appeals court hearing that will have major implications for his 2024 campaign

Donald Trump’s lawyers will argue he is immune from criminal prosecution in election fraud cases in a federal appeals court hearing that will have major implications for his 2024 campaign

The Republican frontrunner's motorcade turned into the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning, surrounded by cops and security

The Republican frontrunner’s motorcade turned into the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning, surrounded by cops and security

The judge also put Trump’s claim to immunity to the test by asking if a president could sell U.S. military secrets, or sell pardons, without then being criminally prosecuted.

Pan told Sauer: ‘I’ve asked you a series of hypotheticals about criminal actions that could be taken by a president and could be considered official acts and asked you would such a president be subjected to criminal prosecution….and your answer was no.’

Sauer countered that selling pardons might not be held to be an official act.

Judge Pan also picked at Sauer’s leaning on the role of impeachment.

‘Your position is as I understand it, if a president is impeached and convicted by Congress then he is subject to criminal prosecution correct?’ she said.

‘Isn’t that also a concession that a president can be criminally prosecuted for an official act?’

In his arguments, Sauer said prosecuting a former president created a dangerous precedent.

He said: ‘To authorize the prosecution of a president for official acts would open a Pandora’s box from which this nation may never recover.’ 

The grilling from the bench has high stakes not just for Trump’s criminal case, but for the timing of his trial.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has set a trial date of March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, and an appeal by Trump to the entire circuit or the Supreme Court could stall the case.

Trump won't be asked any questions or interact with the judge directly before he returns to the campaign trail with just six days until the Iowa caucuses

Trump won’t be asked any questions or interact with the judge directly before he returns to the campaign trail with just six days until the Iowa caucuses

The case is set to go to the Supreme Court, but if the judges side with him, it could derail Special Counsel Jack Smith's federal case

The case is set to go to the Supreme Court, but if the judges side with him, it could derail Special Counsel Jack Smith’s federal case

The Appeals Court is considering a ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan (L) against Trump's claim of absolute presidential immunity from prosecution

The Appeals Court is considering a ruling by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan (L) against Trump’s claim of absolute presidential immunity from prosecution

Special counsel James Pearce, arguing for the government, went back to the analogy in his own time speaking to the judicial panel.

‘What kind of world are we living in … if a president orders his SEAL team to assassinate his political rival and resigns, for example, before an impeachment? Not a criminal act,’ he said, characterizing the Trump legal position.

Judge Michelle Childs brought up the Midlands Asphalt Corp. v. U.S. case – a potential precedent that has intrigued legal analysts because it provides a potential way for the court to quickly dismiss Trump’s appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

But Pearce expressed his preference that the court rule ‘on the merits’ of Trump’s claim of absolute immunity for official acts done while president. He raised issues about various future motions the defense might make that could entangle the case.

Sauer argued that allowing for the prosecution for his official acts would open up a ‘Pandora’s box.’

He asked if George W. Bush could be prosecuted for waging war on Iraq based on false intelligence, or if Barack Obama could be prosecuted for a drone strike.

Sauer said to allow prosecution of a president for official acts ‘would open a Pandora’s box from which this government may never recover.’

Pearce said in the event of a drone strike that killed civilians, ‘The court would properly recognize some kind of immunity,’ but argued, ‘That is nothing like what we’ve got here.’ 

If the panel rules against Trump, he could try to appeal his case to the entire D.C. Court of Appeals, and then go to the Supreme Court. 

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson asked Sauer about times in the past when the courts have weighed in on presidential authority, including Harry S. Truman’s seizure of steel mills during the Korean War.

‘How does that square with your position that the judiciary can never review exec action?’ she pressed.

She also commented on the president’s oath to uphold the Constitution. 

‘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 law,’ she said. 

Earlier, Trump arrived at the federal appeals court in Washington D.C. for the hearing, which will have major implications for his 2024 campaign. 

Lawyers for the former president, 77, are arguing he is immune from prosecution in election subversion cases because he was acting as president when he investigated fraud.

The Republican frontrunner’s motorcade turned into the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning, surrounded by cops and security.

Inside, the three-judge panel will decide whether charges brought against him over January 6 by Special Counsel Jack Smith should be dismissed.

Trump won’t be asked any questions or interact with the judge directly before he returns to the campaign trail with just six days until the Iowa caucuses. 

It came as a new CBS News poll shows 64 percent of Americans do not think Trump should be immune from prosecution for actions he took as president, while 34 percent think he should be. However, 69 percent of Republicans think he should be immune.

Trump claims he should be shielded from prosecution because he was carrying out his official duties as president when he investigated fraud claims from Joe Biden‘s 2020 election win.

He also argues that since the Senate acquitted him during his impeachment in the aftermath of January 6, he shouldn’t have been charged. 

The case is set to go to the Supreme Court, but if the judges side with him, it could derail Smith’s federal case.

Trump has argued he has presidential immunity in multiple cases and is already facing challenges to kick him off the ballot from states including Colorado and Maine. 

Trump has a commanding lead over his Republican rivals heading into the primary season that will be interrupted by court appearances.

The case will be heard by Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Michelle Childs and Florence Pan.

Police secure the outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse before Trump's arrival

Police secure the outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse before Trump’s arrival 

The former president, 77, will be at the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, where a three-judge panel will decide whether charges brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith should be dismissed

The former president, 77, will be at the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, where a three-judge panel will decide whether charges brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith should be dismissed

Henderson has already been involved with Trump cases, including whether Congress could access his tax records. 

A lower court has already ruled that Trump is not immune, and District Judge Tanya Chutkan has refused to dismiss the case.

‘Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass,’ Chutkan wrote. 

‘Former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability.’

Trump then challenged the decision with the appeals court.