Latest News 02-07-2024 09:13 4 Views

Justices claim immunity ruling allows presidents to poison staff, have Navy SEALs kill political rivals

In their dissents from the Supreme Court's decision on presidential immunity, the court's liberal justices suggested that the majority opinion allows for a slew of alarming scenarios — including a president ordering a Navy SEAL team to 'assassinate' his political rival or even poisoning one of his own cabinet members.

The high court on Monday ruled 6-3 that a president has substantial immunity for official acts that occurred during his time in office. It's a decision that has significant implications for former President Trump, whose prosecution on charges related to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach and alleged 2020 election interference spurred the Supreme Court to hear the case. 

But although the majority opinion from Chief Justice John Roberts explicitly stated that the president 'is not above the law' and immunity is only a factor when it involves an 'official act' — the justices sent the case back to lower courts to determine if the acts at the center of Trump's case were 'official' — the ruling raised a series of frightening possibilities, according to the trio of dissenting justices.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan wrote in the primary dissent that the court's majority opinion 'makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of Government, that no man is above the law.' 

'The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution,' Sotomayor wrote. 'Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.'

She continued: 'Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.'

Sotomayor added that the majority decision has 'shifted irrevocably' the relationship between the president and the American people, being that 'in every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.'

Yet another startling scenario is included in a footnote from a separate dissent authored by Jackson.

Noting that the president's removal of a cabinet member would constitute an official act, Jackson says that 'while the President may have the authority to decide to remove the Attorney General, for example, the question here is whether the President has the option to remove the Attorney General by, say, poisoning him to death.'

She adds: 'Put another way, the issue here is not whether the President has exclusive removal power, but whether a generally applicable criminal law prohibiting murder can restrict how the President exercises that authority.'

Sotomayor's conclusion summed up the prevailing tenor of her and Jackson's writings: 'With fear for our democracy, I dissent.'

Both dissents were taken to task in the court's majority opinion.

'As for the dissents, they strike a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the Court actually does today…,' Roberts wrote.

He added: 'Coming up short on reasoning, the dissents repeatedly level variations of the accusation that the Court has rendered the President ‘above the law.’'

Adding that the dissents came 'up short on reasoning,' Roberts wrote that the 'positions in the end boil down to ignoring the Constitution’s separation of powers and the Court’s precedent and instead fear mongering on the basis of extreme hypotheticals about a future where the President ‘feels empowered to violate federal criminal law.''

Sotomayor's dissent swiftly reverberated throughout social media. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 election, posted on X that she agrees with Sotomayor's stand against the 'MAGA wing' of the high court. 

'It will be up to the American people this November to hold Donald Trump accountable,' Clinton wrote.

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