Joe Biden condemns Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity

President Joe Biden on Monday condemned a Supreme Court decision that ruled that presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution for core official acts

by Faruk Imamovic
Joe Biden condemns Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity
© Getty Images/Andrew Harnik

President Joe Biden on Monday condemned a Supreme Court decision that ruled that presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution for core official acts and issued a stark warning about a possible second term for former President Donald Trump.

‘No kings in America’

“This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America,” said Biden, in his public remarks since a weekend family gathering to discuss the future of his own candidacy, seemingly imperiled following a disastrous performance in a televised debate with Trump last week.

“Each, each of us is equal before the law. No one, no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.

“With today’s supreme court decision on presidential immunity that fundamentally changed for all practical purposes. Today’s decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits to what the president can do. This is a fundamentally new principle. It’s a dangerous precedent, because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the supreme court in the United States, the only limits will be self-imposed by the president alone.”

“Now the American people have to do what the court should have been willing to do and will not,” he said. “The American people have to render a judgement about Donald Trump’s behavior.

“The American people must decide whether they want to entrust … once again, the presidency to Donald Trump now knowing he’ll be more emboldened to do whatever he pleases, whenever he wants to do it. I know I will respect the limits of the presidential powers I have had for three and a half years, but any president, including Donald Trump, will now be free to ignore the law.”

Joe Biden condemns Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity
Joe Biden condemns Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity© Getty Images/Andrew Harnik

Trump can claim immunity

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision along ideological lines that Trump can claim immunity from prosecution for some actions he took as president before leaving office, likely delaying his trial on federal election subversion related to his actions on Jan. 6. further.

The ruling overturns a federal appeals court ruling in February that found the former president did not enjoy immunity for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Biden has repeatedly warned that the limits of presidential power now depend solely on the officeholder and the choices that person makes. He said Trump would be a danger in that role.

The highly political speech comes at a critical time for Biden's campaign as he seeks to address persistent concerns about his age exacerbated by his performance in last week's presidential debate. His erratic performance has caused anxiety among some of his biggest donors and raised uncomfortable questions among Democrats about whether he should stay on their ticket, much less serve another four years in the White House.

During Monday's speech, Biden appeared alert, reading energetically from a teleprompter in the Cross Hall of the White House. But he didn't answer questions, walking away immediately after his five-minute statement.

On Monday, Biden mentioned the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol and called it "one of the darkest days in American history". He said the court's ruling made it unlikely that Trump would face trial on charges related to those pre-election riots.

The court's decision technically allows special prosecutor Jack Smith to move forward with his election subversion case against Trump, but it left many technical issues unresolved — making it increasingly unlikely that the trial could begin before the November election. The Smith case now goes back to the lower courts, which must review the specific steps Trump took to overturn the results of the 2020 election and whether those actions were official and therefore granted immunity, or private and not.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump© Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker

Biden attacks Supreme Court ruling

Biden, who has made protecting democracy a central tenet of his campaign, described the decision as a broader pattern of the Supreme Court undermining "a wide range of long-established legal principles," pointing to other rulings on voting rights and civil rights as implicitly setting the stakes for the presidential election.

“This decision today has continued the court’s attack in recent years on a wide range of long-established legal principles in our nation – from gutting voting rights and civil rights to taking away a woman’s right to choose, to today’s decision that undermines the rule of law of this nation,” he said.

Democratic Congresswomen Judy Chu said the fallout from the court's decision would be far-reaching.

“It’s a victory for Donald Trump, and it’s a true blow for democracy in America. The implications of this decision are overwhelming. If a president says in any official capacity that they want to do something that we would consider to be improper and criminal, he could be immune from the actions that he takes," she said.

Joe Biden