Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Careful Donald, Your Claim of Presidential Immunity Could Backfire on You

It has been postulated by Donald Trump’s legal team that a president has absolute immunity for any “official act,” even so far as ordering the assassination of individuals. If the Supreme Court affirms that theory, what would prevent Joe Biden from ordering the elimination of someone he and constitutional scholars believe is a real and current threat to our democratic republic—Donald Trump?

Far-fetched? To be sure. But plausible? You betcha, if the Supremes rule there is no mountain too high that a president cannot scale in pursuit of defending our country. 

Would Biden do it? Convinced as he is that a Trump return to the presidency would be catastrophic for the nation and liberal democracies the world over, he just might reach the conclusion that Trump is expendable. 

Trump, himself, might reach the same conclusion, so he might stay sequestered in Mar-a-Lago through the election and beyond to January 20 inauguration day. Even with Secret Service protection Trump might feel safer in his Florida bunker than in public where Biden’s assassination team would have easier access to a kill. 

He’d still be able to campaign. In 2020 during Covid, Biden showed you can win an election from your basement with Internet links. 

If ever there was cause for the Supreme Court to rule intelligently and with unanimity the issue of presidential immunity needs resolution. If we are to be a nation where no one is above the law the taking of an innocent life must not be enshrined as a presidential power. It should not be a right of the presidency.  

We should thank Donald Trump for forcing the Supreme Court to clarify this principle. And if the court doesn’t, Trump should be mocked for his inadvertent willingness to be the first potential victim of presidential impunity. 

(A Scary Coda: Former attorney general Bill Barr confirmed last week that Trump often advocated for the elimination of critics and leakers. Though Barr qualified his remarks by saying Trump eventually got over his hissy killing fits, it is not inconceivable to imagine a Thomas Becket result from overzealous staffers if presidential murder power is condoned by the Supreme Court, particularly if a second Trump administration is staffed by aggressive loyalists rather than by politically savvy and mature officials.)