top of page

A Trump Precedent: Never Before Determined

By Isabel Pulgarin

Trump Update: The former President Donald J. Trump’s first criminal trial is set for March 25. He faces four criminal indictments across four cities. Of the many cases both criminal and civil, this case deals with his hush money payments from campaign funds made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

It was last December that criminal immunity was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously after Trump’s lawyers hoped to use the constitutional law of presidential immunity from criminal and civil cases as their defense in a federal case. Article II Section Three stood in front of all this litigation and whether a current or former president can be sued or charged at all.

Barry’s political expert and chair of the Department of History and Political Science Dr. Sean Foreman deconstructed the immunity law.

“First of all, immunity means that someone would be immune to being charged with a crime or forgiven, given a blank check—a pass—from being charged with a crime. Typically, it doesn’t happen for anybody,” said Foreman. “No one is above the law, but while they’re the Chief Executive Officer of the country, there’s a lot of concern that if you allow lawsuits against the president, it could lead to other ones that are frivolous and unnecessary. But that brings us to Donald Trump potentially committing crimes.”

U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with conspiracy to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election and committing fraud in order to remain in power last August. It was this federal criminal indictment Trump’s lawyers appealed, but the D.C. Appeals court found his actions were those of a presidential candidate and not duties of a sitting president, as his lawyers claimed.

Trump’s lawyers’ named immunity but his lawyers failed in February to file an appeals motion to the Supreme Court due to the seriousness of the crimes. But constitutional lawyers believe his future defense will still rely on it.

“There is a [previous] case dealing with presidential immunity and Bill Clinton when he was president in the 1990s, but it had to do with a civil suit,” said Foreman.

In 1994, Paula Jones alleged in a lawsuit that then President Bill Clinton had sexually harassed her when he was governor of Arkansas.

When it was found out he had an alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky, she was put on the list of witnesses to contribute to the case.

Clinton found out and took steps to cover up the affair. And when he was asked to testify, he lied about the affair and dug his grave, eventually being impeached for perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

“The Supreme Court had to decide can she sue him while he’s president for something that happened before he was president. And they decided yes, by 9-0, the president can do his job and still respond to the civil lawsuit,” said Foreman. “And then when they got him to testify about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he wasn’t fully truthful, and they impeached him for perjury.”

There have been four impeachments in American history but never a presidential indictment of criminal charges. The first impeachment was against Democratic President Andrew Johnson in 1868 for attempting to remove cabinet officials without advice and consent of Congress.

The second was against Clinton in 1998. The other two were against Trump. The first was December 2019 for seeking election interference from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy through quid pro quo, military aid for information on opponents. And the second was only seven days after the Jan.6 insurrection in 2021 where supporters, that were found to be incited by Trump at an earlier rally, overtook the Capitol—something he is only being charged now with a few years later.

Republican President Richard Nixon was facing impeachment for his involvement and attempted cover-up of the Watergate Scandal, the burglary of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, but he resigned before proceedings.

Nixon had lost support from his party. Clinton was found to have failed morally rather than having failed in leadership in a time where he had bipartisan support. All impeached presidents were acquitted and never faced criminal charges.

Clinton faced a civil matter which was allowed to go through—the lawsuit was eventually settled. This removed Trump’s immunity from civil cases. It is only now that the fate of criminal immunity is up in arms.

“We’re in a whole new territory because we’ve never had criminal charges against a sitting or former president before,” said Foreman.

Of the many, Trump’s actions as president and those of his followers are in question at the Supreme Court.

The justices, with the majority being conservative and half appointed by him, determine whether Trump’s actions warrant him to be removed from the ballot for presidency this 2024 election cycle. This comes after the Colorado Supreme Court decided so in January, calling on Section three of the 14th amendment. Thirty more states have also done so but these filings are paused awaiting the Court’s judgement.

As the 14th amendment bars an insurrectionist from holding office, the Court is questioning what the circumstances warrant.

Should he be allowed to run, win the Republican nomination, and win the election, only to have Congress on Jan.6 - while counting ballots - decide to restrict him then? Or should the court cut him off at the knees during his run and allow him to be taken off the ballot in almost all the states?

But this involves questioning whether the events of Jan. 6 rose to the level of an insurrection, as Colorado ruled it to be for the first time ever.

The fact is there is no law against a criminal from holding office if he is found guilty in any of his criminal cases. And Trump is still spearheading the Republican party in Congress and our election.

It’s all a messy waiting game for the country with a sea of legal filings and expensive civil settlements for him.

Recent Posts

See All


Avaliado com 0 de 5 estrelas.
Ainda sem avaliações

Adicione uma avaliação
bottom of page