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Conservative Judge Shreds Trump’s Immunity Claim: Presidency Does Not Grant License to Break Laws



Donald Trump in court
Donald Trump in court. (Photo: Imgur)

On Tuesday, appeals court Judge Karen Henderson, the sole Republican appointee among the three overseeing Donald Trump’s immunity hearing, challenged Trump’s assertion that his presidential duties allowed him to break the law.

As the most experienced jurist on the panel, Henderson’s stance in this case holds significant weight and serves as a signal to other judges who may face similar considerations, including the Supreme Court.

Expressing skepticism that Trump acted within his official duties, Henderson made it clear she is not buying the former president’s argument that he was faithfully executing his presidential duties when he directed a mob to the Capitol to disrupt the electoral vote certification, calling the arguments presented by Trump’s attorney, John Sauer “paradoxical.”

“I think it is paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate criminal law,” Henderson remarked, as reported by CNN.

Having dealt with various cases involving the American presidency, Henderson has extensively written on the subject and how courts should approach its protections.

In a previous Trump case challenging Congress’ access to his tax returns, Henderson, surprisingly, questioned whether there should be special considerations if Trump were to run for office again (which he is currently doing). Ultimately, the tax returns were released with the court’s approval.

In her concurring opinion on that case, Henderson emphasized that the Executive Branch faces more significant burdens that warrant closer scrutiny. She had also previously considered immunity issues surrounding the presidency in a DC Circuit panel regarding a congressional subpoena of Trump’s former White House counsel, Don McGahn. In that instance, Henderson acknowledged that while absolute immunity around the presidency couldn’t shield McGahn entirely, some protections around the presidency could limit his responses to Congress.

Highlighting the reach of criminal investigations and the inability to evade lawsuits for unofficial acts with temporary presidential immunity claims, Henderson’s perspective adds nuance to the ongoing debate on the scope of presidential powers.