The Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court majority’s ruling granting presidents immunity from prosecution for official acts drew a sharp rebuke from U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson on Monday.

The Mississippi Democrat led the U.S. House January 6th Select Committee, which investigated Trump’s efforts to stay in office despite losing the 2020 election and his role in his supporters’ Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. The nation’s high court agreed with Trump yesterday that he should be immune from criminal charges in certain instances where he was acting as president.

“As someone who led Congress's investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, let me be very clear: today, a lawless and corrupt Supreme Court extreme conservative majority rewrote the Constitution for their master, Donald Trump, and dangerously undermined the rule of law in this country,” Thompson said in a statement on Monday.

“By granting a twice-impeached felon absolute immunity for many of his acts that sought to undermine the legitimate results of the 2020 Presidential election, such as weaponizing the Department of Justice to do his campaign's bidding, these extreme Justices clearly put the ex-President above the law.”

‘The President Is Now a King Above the Law’

After a federal grand jury indicted Donald Trump on felony charges in the Jan. 6 case, his attorneys argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that presidents should have “immunity” for official acts. The U.S. Supreme Court majority agreed in a 6-3 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion.

“Under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power entitles a former president to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority,” the chief justice wrote in the majority opinion. “And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts. There is no immunity for unofficial acts.”

A crowd of people holding small US Flags in the air assemble in before giant posters of Donald Trump's eyes
Then-President Donald Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the 2020 election results during a rally in Washington, D.C., shortly before his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Roberts was an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush; joining him in the majority was fellow George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito; George H.W. Bush appointee Clarence Thomas; and Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The three Democratic appointees on the court all dissented, with the Barack Obama-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing for the minority, joined by Obama appointee Elena Kagan and Joe Biden appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Sotomayor wrote that the decision “effectively creates a law-free zone around the President.” It could allow presidents to order “the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival,” “organize a military coup to hold onto power,” or take “a bribe in exchange for a pardon,” she added.

“Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done,” the dissent says. “The relationship between the president and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law. … With fear for our democracy, I dissent.”

The ruling does not necessarily mean Trump cannot be prosecuted for his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, but it does make it more difficult. Roberts’ majority opinion sent the matter back to a lower district court to determine, based on Monday’s ruling, which acts in the charges were “official acts” for which Trump is immune from prosecution and which ones he is not.

But the decision is already complicating other criminal cases against Trump, including his criminal conviction in New York state over hush-money payments he made to an adult film actress in an attempt to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday, his attorneys said they would ask the state court to toss his conviction because some of the evidence used at trial to secure the conviction happened while he was president.

In his statement on Monday, Thompson noted that the Republican-appointed majority’s opinion ensures that Trump’s trial over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, if it goes forward at all, will be delayed until after the 2024 election. The congressman said the delay “is not only what he desperately wanted but will also deny the American people justice before a critical election.” Thompson represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the Delta and the City of Jackson.

“This shameful decision will now act as a ‘loaded weapon,' to quote from Justice Sotomayor's scathing dissent,” he said. “The only way for Americans to ensure that this weapon does not go off and to avoid another attempted coup like the one on January 6th is to elect honest and wise individuals to the highest office in the land—our freedom and our Republic depend on that now more than ever, especially since a rogue Supreme Court has chosen partisanship over their duty to do impartial justice.”

Other members of Mississippi’s U.S. Congressional delegation, who are all Republicans, have not spoken out about the ruling.

Trump Celebrates Ruling As Biden Warns of Dangers

Former President Donald Trump responded joyfully to the ruling on Monday, writing on his social media platform Truth Social that the decision was a “BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY.”

“PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN,” he added.

But in a speech on Monday night, President Joe Biden warned that the U.S. Supreme Court had created “a fundamentally new principle and (that) it’s a dangerous principle because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States.”

“This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America. Each of us is equal before the law. No one is above the law, not even the President of the United States. With today's Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity, that fundamentally changed,” the president said. “For all practical purposes, today's decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a President can do.”

A closeup of President Joe Biden speaking in front of a mic
President Joe Biden said in a speech on Monday, July 1, 2024, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision granting presidents immunity for official acts means “there are virtually no limits on what a President can do.” AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Under the new ruling, Biden said that “it'll depend on the character of the men and women who hold that presidency to define the limits of the power of the presidency, because the law will no longer do it.”

In an interview on Fox News on Monday night, Republican U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson dismissed concerns about the ruling, accusing Democrats of “hyperbole” and making up “fantastical” hypotheticals about presidents abusing their power in the wake of the decision.

“Listen, remember this. The president and vice president are the only two officers in our constitutional system that are elected by all the people, no one who is elected to that office (is) going to be prone to this kind of crazy criminal activity,” the Louisiana Republican said.

Democratic U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries blasted the ruling in a statement on Monday, and vowed to “engage in aggressive oversight and legislative activity with respect to the Supreme Court to ensure that extreme, far-right justices in the majority are brought into compliance with the Constitution.” Such efforts are unlikely to succeed unless Democrats win back the U.S. House and hold onto control of the U.S. Senate in November, however.

“The Framers of the Constitution envisioned a democracy governed by the rule of law and the consent of the American people. They did not intend for our nation to be ruled by a king or monarch who could act with absolute impunity,” Jeffries said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to “Trump’s trial over his efforts to overturn the 2016 election.” The trial is over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, not the 2016 election. We apologize for the error.

Award-winning News Editor Ashton Pittman, a native of the South Mississippi Pine Belt, studied journalism and political science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Previously the state reporter at the Jackson Free Press, he drove national headlines and conversations with award-winning reporting about segregation academies. He has won numerous awards, including Outstanding New Journalist in the South, for his work covering immigration raids, abortion battles and even former Gov. Phil Bryant’s unusual work with “The Bad Boys of Brexit" at the Jackson Free Press. In 2021, as a Crirec reporter, he was named the Diamond Journalist of the Year for seven southern U.S. states in the Society of Professional Journalists Diamond Awards. A trained photojournalist, Ashton lives in South Mississippi with his husband, William, and their two pit bulls, Dorothy and Dru. Follow on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Send tips to [email protected].

One reply on “Immunity Ruling ‘Put the Ex-President Above the Law,’ Rep. Bennie Thompson Says, Condemning U.S. Supreme Court”

  1. SCOTUS's presidential immunity ruling, as well as the authority of SCOTUS to make that ruling, needs to be properly contested. It is clear that any SCOTUS justice that accepted and accepts bribes needs to be criminally investigated and prosecuted. By their own acts and public admissions, e.g., rulings, they have already accepted such bribes and since they claim immunity, they place themselves as above the law, just as they have just placed the president above the law. They need to be recused from this process, i.e. they cannot rule objectively in a case where they are defendants. Such matters fall within the authority of the DOJ within the executive branch, not Congress, which is currently fatally politically biased.

    (c) 2024 Allen McCready

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