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Commentary By Ilya Shapiro

SCOTUS Is Right: Presidents Can’t Be Prosecuted for Doing Their Jobs

Governance Supreme Court

"When a president does it, that means it is not illegal," Richard Nixon famously said. The former president has long been pilloried for thus suggesting that our nation's chief executive can do whatever he wants with complete impunity. Well, on Monday, the last day of its term, the Supreme Court basically said, "it depends"—and it's right.

That doesn't mean that the president gets to commit crimes or break the law, but it does mean that the very nature of federal executive power means he can't be prosecuted for most actions done within the context of his official responsibilities. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it for a six-Justice majority in Trump v. United States:

The President enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official. The President is not above the law. But Congress may not criminalize the President's conduct in carrying out the responsibilities of the Executive Branch under the Constitution. And the system of separated powers designed by the Framers has always demanded an energetic, independent Executive. The President therefore may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers, and he is entitled, at a minimum, to a presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts. That immunity applies equally to all occupants of the Oval Office, regardless of politics, policy, or party.

Continue reading the entire piece here at Newsweek


Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

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