General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

After today's SCOTUS ruling, could Biden order the Sercret Service to execute Donald Trump as an "official act of office" and receive immunity from prosecution?

Asked by gorillapaws (30656points) 1 week ago

My understanding is that the SCOTUS has just determined that any “official act” done by a president would be immune from prosecution. Under this logic, Biden could use his judgement to protect the constitution from someone who claims to want to be dictator for a day by employing the executive power to permanently remove the threat.

The far right SCOTUS ruling would protect such an act, wouldn’t it?

Hell, couldn’t he use this newfound protection to order the execution of any SCOTUS Justice he didn’t like?

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43 Answers

janbb's avatar

I am not surprised but I am sickened.

chyna's avatar

Dictatorship at its finest.

ragingloli's avatar

“The far right SCOTUS ruling would protect such an act, wouldn’t it?”
Only if a republican does it.

Zaku's avatar

That was even part of the argument against. I don’t think the full decision has been released yet, so such details may need to wait.

But yeah, people who are seditionists, foreign agents, spies who distribute top secret US military documents, and others who threaten the nation, could probably be dealt with as Official Acts . . .

JLeslie's avatar

I’m ok with the ruling.

Our military is still obligated to only follow legal orders. If you mean a private hit job, maybe it would be deemed legal, but it is an extreme loophole. The law needs to work for most circumstances, it won’t necessarily be perfect.

We still have impeachment to get rid of a president.

filmfann's avatar

Such a decision would be (or could be interpreted as) legal for a President. To make that decision, the President would have to believe he is right, and this was necessary for the safety and survival of the country.
Joe Biden would never think that way. Trump has already demonstrated he does.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

The Supreme Court is now on a 4-month break. But I agree with @filmfann that Biden would never follow through with such a solution. There are more moral things he could do though. He could have Trump sent to Gitmo immediately and indefinitely, as a threat to the Constitution. He could do something similar to the biased Supreme Court justices.

JLeslie's avatar

Biden isn’t going to do anything to Trump. Give me a break.

gondwanalon's avatar

That wouldn’t be an execution. That would be murder. And the Secret Service would be held accountable for following an unlawful order.

SnipSnip's avatar

That would not be an official act.

seawulf575's avatar

I guess you’d have to show how it was part of his official duties and how it was not removing his civil rights. Just like with the question of Seal Team Six being sent to eliminate a political opponent, it isn’t within the official duties of the POTUS. In the military that would be called an unlawful order.

Now, if Trump was secretly meeting with terrorist groups and the military sent a smart bomb in to wipe out the cell and Trump was killed, it could be construed as being within the official duties. Unless it was shown that the purpose was to kill Trump and then…no.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie “Biden isn’t going to do anything to Trump.” You mean other than encourage lawfare to tie him up in court, take away his freedom, and drain his bank accounts? Nah, he wouldn’t do anything.

gorillapaws's avatar

The point isn’t that Biden would or wouldn’t or that. I’m saying a logical consequence of the ruling is that such an act would be immune from prosecution.

@seawulf575 A POTUS is charged with defending the constitution. Trump publicly threatened it. The SCOTUS has granted him “broad executive authority” and as a result if the POTUS believed he was defending the Constitution it would seem to be an “official act” and one he would be immune for.

Hence the problem with extending the executive broad authority and immunity.

seawulf575's avatar

@chyna Sotomayor’s take is negating the idea that it has to be part of the official duties of the POTUS. It isn’t making a law free zone around the POTUS, but it does prevent exactly the sort of things that are going on now.

But let’s take Sotomayor’s take on things. Let’s say that was the majority decision. Does that mean that the DOJ could arrest Barack Obama for killing Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi’s 8 year old sister in drone strikes? They were all American citizens. He used the military to kill them.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I didn’t mean to direct my comment at you, that’s my mistake. I meant the few posts directly above my comment. I never thought you were serious about Biden actually doing something.

Forever_Free's avatar

I am not surprised at this ruling by this SCOTUS.
I however is a terrible terrible ruling breaking dangerous ground.
Sotomayor listed “nightmare scenarios” involving illegal conduct by a future president that would, she argued, be shielded from criminal prosecution under the court’s ruling.

“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 wrote.

Forever_Free's avatar

@seawulf575 The DOJ doe not hold jurisdiction over those acts you cited. The International Criminal Court would hear that accusation. Did that occur?
Was Truman charged of crimes for ordering the dropping bombs? The bombers would have been charged had the Axis won the war.

chyna's avatar

Because @seawulf575 knows wayyy more than Justice Sotomayor.~. {eyeroll}

flutherother's avatar

I remember how stunned we all were when disgraced ex President Richard Nixon said during his 1977 interviews with David Frost “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. Link Were we all wrong and was Nixon right after all?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good article @chyna.

Fascinating discussions y’all.

LadyMarissa's avatar

my understanding is that Biden does have the option; but as liberal as he’s assumed to be, I don’t see him stooping that low. 45 met with Putin twice on Friday.

seawulf575's avatar

@Forever_Free Now you’re getting it! These POTUS’ had immunity from prosecution for the actions they took as part of their duties as POTUS. BTW, the drone strikes, without immunity, would have been a violation of 18 USC 1385 and probably the Executive Order 11905 from Gerald Ford. But in both cases you cited, actions were taken as part of war or national security to help defend the country though the Truman act was not against American citizens. The laws I cited are to prevent a POTUS from just ordering the military to go kill Americans for no real legitimate reason so the DoJ would have jurisdiction to arrest them, just like anyone that breaks federal law.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws “A POTUS is charged with defending the constitution. Trump publicly threatened it.” In your opinion. You are not a judge. The SCOTUS did not address Trump’s case at all. What they did do was to explain presidential immunity. And what they said was that the federal courts are supposed to decide whether the action in question was part of a persons duties as POTUS, and they are supposed to start the determination with an assumption that the action was a part of their duties. In other words, they have to basically say that actions that were taken would have been well outside (beyond any question) the duties of the POTUS. Ensuring fair and honest elections is a part of the duties of the POTUS. Calling the VP to voice your concerns about the legitimacy is well within the duties of the POTUS. So right now it is back to the judge (Chutkan I believe) to revisit the basis of the actions to see if the limit was exceeded. Not an easy thing. Much easier before this ruling since she could start at the assumption that she didn’t like Trump and wanted him to go down and therefore she could believe every left wing news report and wild claim as truth.

Then you get into the idea that Trump somehow incited an insurrection. This falls apart for a great number of reasons, the largest one being that it didn’t happen. He specifically told people at the rally they were going to peacefully protest at the Capitol. The great talking point from the left is that Trump did nothing about the riot until something like 3 hours after it started when he sent out a tweet telling the protesters to be peaceful and to stop any violence. This was a false statement. He made several tweets saying these exact things within 30 minutes of the start of the dust-ups and about 10 minutes after they breached the Capitol. Another problem with the insurrection claim is that there was not a single other person charged for insurrection. This, then, would be the crux of the issue of immunity. If it were decided that he obviously (not dog whistle) urged violence, gave some signal to start violence, cheered them on as it was going on…something like that…that would not fall under the normal duties of the office of the POTUS. But the judge is going to have to look at every single claim against the POTUS to see if it falls within the duties or not. This is going to be a long review.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “You are not a judge.”

You’re missing the point. My comment wasn’t whether Trump should be held to account, it’s that after this ruling, the rubric for whether a president may engage in extrajudicial assassinations is now so low that if that president believes the person (regardless of their motivations) is a threat to the constitution, they can be killed without legal repercussion.

janbb's avatar

@gorillapaws But there is no Constitution any more. The “Original Constitutionists” have overthrown it.

ragingloli's avatar

@gorillapaws
The ruling also includes the juicy little passage that official and private communications of the president are not allowed to be admitted as evidence even in cases of “unofficial acts”.
Meaning that the president not only can not be prosecuted for his crimes if done through “official acts”, you are not even allowed to inquire if they even were official acts.

gorillapaws's avatar

If I were Biden I’d confiscate the property of the SCOTUS as an “official act” to protect the constitution from corruption.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws I’m not missing the point. The point of the ruling was that the POTUS can be prosecuted for unofficial acts, but not for official acts. Is it your suggestion that assassinations are now part of the official acts? There are several things that speak against that. But seriously, do you really believe that any POTUS could justify killing their political rival as part of their official duties? Please explain what duty that would fall under? Yes, they could do like the left does all the time with Trump: “He’s a threat to democracy!!! He wants to make himself a dictator!!!” But even that is not justification for assassination. First off you’d have to have proof of such wild claims and secondly, even if you had proof, there are far better ways to deal with such things. You could never justify assassination as part of your official duties.

And my response to you not being a judge referred to your claim about Trump doing illegal things…things that are still in contention and things that never happened. When you said Trump threatened the Constitution, that is opinion at the very best. There is no evidence to support that. There is a lot of speculation and opinion which is what Jack Smith was relying on. But your opinion is not fact.

janbb's avatar

It is the Supreme Court who determine what is an official or unofficial act so no, Biden can’t do anything after this ruling. It is a gift to Trump and to fascism.

seawulf575's avatar

@janbb Go back and read the decision. Don’t trust to media bias…read the decision. The SCOTUS specifically did not identify what was and wasn’t an official act. They gave guidance to the lower courts that, when they are faced with cases like this, they can go to for helping make decisions as to whether it is a valid case or not.

From the syllabus of the case (pg. 3) they write this:

” The first step in deciding whether a former President is entitled to immunity from a particular prosecution is to distinguish his official from unofficial actions. In this case, no court thus far has drawn that distinction, in general or with respect to the conduct alleged in particular. It is therefore incumbent upon the Court to be mindful that it is “a court of final review and not first view.””

In other words, they aren’t saying Trump did or didn’t do anything wrong. They are saying the courts didn’t bother to see if anything alleged fell under his duties or not and so the SCOTUS shouldn’t be the ones to make that initial determination.

I’ll be honest, the opinion is 118 pages long. I have not read it all yet. Still plowing through. But the citations they gave show they considered the lawful and unlawful actions of a POTUS. Example: When Paula Jones was suing Bill Clinton for Sexual Assault, from when he was governor of Arkansas. Bill tried claiming presidential immunity since he was POTUS by that time. The court rejected that claim noting that while he had absolute immunity for actions taken as part of his presidential duties, he did not have any immunity for actions taken that fell outside his normal duties. In this case, the crime was done before he was POTUS so he isn’t allowed to hide behind the presidential immunity. Likewise Richard Nixon tried claiming presidential immunity when they were trying to get his secret tapes and other communications. Since the actions involved with the request were of things that obviously fell outside his presidential duties, that was denied, though they did note that presidential communications had a presumption of immunity normally. Both of these cases had the courts looking at the actions taken to see if they fell within the field of presidential duties or not.

And fear not…all this is well within the bounds of the Constitution…they tied it back to that over and over again. However bringing bogus charges against a political rival and ignoring the rights and laws surrounding that rival are right in line with Fascism.

flutherother's avatar

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” Thomas Jefferson

Just what the effects of the Supreme Court ruling will be remains to be seen but there is no doubt it is a step in the wrong direction and one, God forbid, that an unscrupulous president could take advantage of.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “Is it your suggestion that assassinations are now part of the official acts?”

I’m saying that acts in service to defending the Constitution (as the president sees it) are official acts. Furthermore the court explicitly excludes considering the motivations behind the president’s actions. It also allows for a “broad immunity.” I don’t think assassinations are, but my opinion is irrelevant, it’s up to each individual president’s interpretation. If president x believe they can assassinate people to defend the Constitution, then they can. That’s the problem.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws Could a POTUS have someone assassinated? Absolutely. I’m pretty sure he/she could find someone unscrupulous enough to do it. Would it be considered legal, as part of the duties of being POTUS? Probably not. And that is what everyone is missing. This isn’t blanket immunity. But it is immunity from a lot of nonsense, the likes of which we are seeing today being thrown at Trump. And the interpretation is not up to the POTUS, it’s up to the courts. And in the case of a sitting POTUS, it would even be up to the Congress (impeachment). Now, that doesn’t bring someone back to life, but it certainly does put reins on the POTUS.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother You do understand the SCOTUS ruled the way they did specifically because of the separation of powers in our government, right? Like it or not, the POTUS is pretty much the only one in the Executive Branch. Everyone else in that branch falls under him/her. Their ruling was done in recognition of the rules required to make that position operational at all as well as the separation of the powers of the government.

flutherother's avatar

@seawulf575 I don’t think the president has to break the law to do his job properly and I think the president should always be accountable for his actions. That’s why we have separation of the powers, It may be inconvenient for some but it means all the rest of us can sleep that bit easier.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother Okay, so let’s charge Biden with murder or accessory to murder since he allowed all the illegal migrants in, relocated them around the country, allowing them to murder people. Those are decisions he made that led to literally hundreds of thousands of deaths and human trafficking in this country. Let’s back it up and go after Obama for using drones to kill American citizens. Basically every decision made by a POTUS could be questioned and could open them up for lawsuit after lawsuit because many of them violate some law or other.

And again, the ruling from the SCOTUS was based specifically on the separation of powers in the government. That may be inconvenient for you, but it is the right thing.

tinyfaery's avatar

Biden should go all scorched earth but he’s too much of a coward.

SnipSnip's avatar

@seawulf575 Yes, it is the right thing.

flutherother's avatar

@seawulf575 The separation of powers is designed to create a system of checks and balances, where each branch can monitor and limit the functions of the others. This prevents any single branch from becoming too powerful and potentially tyrannical. Giving one branch partial immunity from scrutiny and oversight acts against the purpose of separating powers and is very much not the right thing to do nor is there any necessity for it.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother You need to go back to basic Civics class. There is indeed a system of checks and balances. But that doesn’t mean the POTUS gets to tell the Congress how to operate, what decisions to make, etc. It doesn’t mean that Congress gets to dictate to the SCOTUS how they should rule on different cases. What it does mean is exactly what I have been saying. The POTUS has a job to do, a job that is sometimes very fluid and requires quick action and decision making. And in the case of the three branches of our government, the POTUS is basically a single person representing the entire Executive Branch. Congress has 500+ members, the SCOTUS has 9.

So the POTUS has to be able to do his job without worrying about being personally challenged legally on every single point. That is what the current lawfare against Trump is all about…trying to hold him personally accountable for actions taken as POTUS.

What the SCOTUS basically said in this ruling is that the POTUS enjoys immunity and the courts should not accept cases that challenge that, unless the actions were outside their normal duties as POTUS. Ordering the Secret Service to kill your political opponent is not within the normal duties of being a POTUS. Having the POTUS pull out a gun and do it himself is not within the normal duties of being a POTUS. Directing the military to come and haul all Senators and Representatives of the opposing party away is not within his normal duties. All these things could and should be challenged and would not pass the smell test of immunity. The POTUS is not allowed to do whatever he/she wants whenever he/she wants to do it. But it does open the door to somethings that seem iffy sometimes. I brought up Obama and the drone strikes as a perfect example. He was using drones to kill al-Quaeda operatives. That might be within the duties of his normal job. He sometimes ordered these strikes inside the borders of countries we were not at war with. That is a bit sketchy. He frequently killed civilians with these drone strikes. That is a bit sketchier. He also killed quite a few Americans with the drone strikes. Using the military to kill Americans is very sketchy. That gets back into what you and others were afraid of with this decision: that a POTUS could kill their opponents. But the Americans happened to be near where the actual targets were and they weren’t necessarily the actual targets. So he is given the immunity from his actions because they could all be tied back to his normal duties. If he had been targeting Americans, or if it could be shown he was planning to kill Americans, that might be a different story.

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