(Headline USA) President Donald Trump may be prosecuted in his election interference case in Washington, a federal judge ruled Friday, knocking down the Republican’s bid to defend his right to free speech.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision amounts to a sharp rejection to challenges the Trump defense team had raised to the four-count indictment in advance of a trial expected to center on Trump’s ability to question election results.
The order might not be the final say in the legal fight. Lawyers for Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, are expected to quickly appeal to fight this ‘unsettled legal question.’
Lawyers for Trump had argued that he was within his First Amendment rights to challenge the outcome of the election and to allege that it had been tainted by fraud, and they accused prosecutors of attempting to criminalize political speech and political advocacy.
But Chutkan said a sitting president’s free speech does not serve as protection for him to talk about his own election.
An attorney for Trump declined to comment Friday evening.
Trump’s legal team had argued the criminal case, which is scheduled to go to trial in March, should be dismissed because the 2024 Republican presidential primary front-runner is shielded from prosecution for actions he took while fulfilling his duties as president. They assert that the actions detailed in the indictment cut to the core of Trump’s responsibilities as commander in chief.
The Supreme Court has held that presidents are immune from civil liability for actions related to their official duties, but the justices have never grappled with the question of whether that immunity extends to criminal prosecution.
The Justice Department has also held that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted.
Trump’s lawyers are trying to ensure that same protection to a former president for actions taken while in office, asserting that no prosecutor since the beginning of American democracy has had the authority to bring such charges.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press