Former top military officers push back on Trump immunity claim

More than a dozen retired four-star generals, admirals and other former military leaders filed an amicus brief with in the Supreme Court on Monday, arguing against former President Trump’s claims of immunity in his criminal cases.

The group said Trump’s claims “would threaten the military’s role in American society, our nation’s constitutional order, and our national security,” and would have a “profoundly negative effects on military service members.”

The former president’s attorneys have argued that the charges against Trump related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol should be thrown out because he was acting as president at the time. Prosecutors have denounced the idea as a “novel and sweeping” claim.

The brief’s signatories include former CIA Director Michael Hayden, retired Adm. Thad Allen and retired Gens. George Casey, Carlton Fulford, Craig McKinley and Charles Krulak.

The group argued that granting Trump immunity against the criminal claims could open the door to future executive intervention in the country’s elections and could put national security at risk.

“The notion of such immunity, both as a general matter, and also specifically in the context of the potential negation of election results, threatens to jeopardize our nation’s security and international leadership,” the brief reads. “Particularly in times like the present, when anti-democratic, authoritarian regimes are on the rise worldwide, such a threat is intolerable and dangerous.”

The group also wrote that if the court agrees with Trump’s argument, it will destroy the relationship between the commander in chief and the military, because the president would not have to follow law, while the military still would.

The situation could end up “creating the likelihood that service members will be placed in the impossible position of having to choose between following their Commander-in-Chief and obeying the laws enacted by Congress,” the brief says.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump makes comments following a pre-trial hearing in a hash money case in criminal court on March 25, 2024 in New York City.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump makes comments following a pre-trial hearing in a hash money case in criminal court on March 25, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump makes comments following a pretrial hearing in a hash money case in criminal court on March 25 in New York City. (Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)

There is a national security risk as well, the group argued, with challenges to the peaceful transition of power putting the entire country at risk in what is already an opportune moment for foreign powers to strike.

“Foreign countries also closely observe American elections, and domestic conflict on U.S. soil — especially conflict related to the peaceful transition of power — only encourages our foreign adversaries,” the brief reads.

Presidential immunity would “inexorably lead to deep divisions between the armed forces’ political and military leaders and would place servicemen and women in the impossible position of either ignoring presidential orders they are sworn to obey or committing crimes at the President’s behest in violation of their oath — for which they may be prosecuted,” the group added.

The former officers also contended that any change in the assumption of immunity could erode the public’s trust in the military as an institution.

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The Supreme Court is set to begin arguments on the immunity claims April 25, with the landmark decision likely to be handed down by the end of June or sooner.

The trial for Trump’s federal election subversion case was slated to start in early March, but proceedings are currently on hold while the Supreme Court weighs the immunity challenge. Several critics of the former president, the presumptive GOP nominee, have contended his immunity push is another way to delay his trial until after the November election.

Trump is facing four felony counts accusing him of being involved in a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors allege he stood at the center of a campaign to block the certification of votes for President Biden that day.

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