It was a “frosty reception” for the former US president in court, writes the Reuters news agency. He didn’t even have to appear before the appeals court in Washington that Tuesday, but he did. He also didn’t comment in the hall, but only later, when the cameras were rolling. He painted the devil on the wall: If US presidents did not enjoy comprehensive immunity – he mainly meant his – then “Pandora’s Box would be opened” and the “country would sink into chaos.”

Gloomy forecasts like these are part of the standard repertoire of all populists and Donald Trump also makes extensive use of them, not just since the beginning of the US election campaign. However, the judges do not share his pessimism. The appeal process, which has now begun in the US capital, is about the question of how comprehensive Trump’s immunity from criminal prosecution is as a former president.

Specifically, the proceedings affect the progress of the process surrounding election manipulation allegations in Washington. The judge in charge, Tanya Chutkan, lifted Trump’s immunity at the beginning of December, which he again appealed – which the judges have now discussed. If they confirm the decision of their colleague Chutkan, the actual trial could begin as planned on March 4th.

The question of whether and to what extent a US president can be held accountable for his government actions is also likely to have an impact on other allegations that Trump has to face in court. His legal representatives are of the opinion that Trump enjoys “absolute immunity” and cannot be prosecuted for decisions made during his term in office. The Justice Department’s legal representative, James Pearce, emphasized that the president has “a prominent constitutional role, but he is not above the law.”

The three appeals judges appeared unconvinced by the Trump defense arguments. Arguing that he responded to alleged fraud at the polls after the 2020 election, Judge Karen Henderson said she found it “paradoxical” to say that Trump’s “constitutional duty to ensure the accurate implementation of the law deprives him of the right to do so.” Violation of criminal laws permitted”.

After the hearing ended, Trump complained to reporters that it was “very unfair” for him to be prosecuted by the Justice Department as a political opponent of President Joe Biden. He also repeated his accusation that Biden was trying to prevent his return to the White House. It is an attempt by the Democrats to win the presidential election “this way”.

Trump has claimed to this day that he was cheated out of his election victory – which is unsupported by any facts and has been refuted many times. During the handover of office to Joe Biden, Trump supporters stormed the US Congress on January 6, 2021, resulting in numerous deaths. The then president is accused of inciting people to revolt.

His role in the storming of the Capitol is being investigated by special prosecutor Jack Smith, who also filed the charges. Because the question of Trump’s immunity is central to the process, Smith first appealed to the US Supreme Court and asked for clarification. But the judges there referred the case to the appeal court.

The decision is expected in the coming days. If it doesn’t turn out the way the former president wanted, he could appeal again. If in doubt, the matter will then end up back before the Supreme Court.

Not much can be said about the chances of success of the four trials against him, nor about the possible impact on Trump’s popularity. So far, however, the legal difficulties have benefited him rather than harmed him. His poll numbers have recently improved significantly – he is well ahead of the competition both within the Republican party and nationally.

Despite this, or rather because of this, he and his team are playing for time. They are trying to prolong the opening of trials not only through appeals, as is now the case in Washington. Their calculation: If Trump wins the presidential election in November and the negotiations are not concluded, he could end them without further ado as head of state.

But until that happens, other tricks are needed. In Georgia, for example, where Trump is accused of wanting to manipulate the election count in his favor, his co-defendants are now trying to discredit the responsible public prosecutor, Fani Willis. She is said to have had “an inappropriate, secret, personal relationship” with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, who was also familiar with the case. Money is also said to have played a role. In short, Donald Trump railed from Washington, the “district prosecutor is completely compromised. The case must be closed.”

Quellen: “The Hill”, AFP, “US Today”, CNN, Realclearpolitics.