Bill Barr scoffs at ‘horror stories’ about Supreme Court immunity ruling

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Bill Barr scoffs at ‘horror stories’ about Supreme Court immunity ruling

Former Attorney General Bill Barr brushed off what he called “horror stories” raised by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent on the high court’s ruling on former President Trump’s immunity claim.

“The worst example I think, the one that makes no sense whatsoever, is the idea he can use SEAL Team 6 to kill a political opponent. The president has the authority to defend the country against foreign enemies, armed conflict and so forth,” Barr said Monday on Fox News.

“He has the authority to direct the justice system against criminals at home. He doesn’t have authority to go and assassinate people,” he added. “So, whether he uses the SEAL team or a private hit man, it doesn’t matter; it doesn’t make it a carrying out of his authority. So, all these horror stories really are false.”

The SEAL Team 6 example was addressed in Sotomayor’s dissent to the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling Monday. Sotomayor said the Supreme Court’s decision to grant Trump immunity for official acts “completely insulate[s] presidents from criminal liability” in a forceful dissent.

“When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution,” Sotomayor wrote. “Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune,” she continued. “Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.” 

The Supreme Court handed down the 6-3 decision on Monday, ruling along ideological lines that presidents have absolute immunity for actions that fall within the core responsibilities of their office and are “at least presumptively immune” for all other official acts.

“I think this was a very sensible decision that I think most lawyers familiar with this area expected … which is this went up to the court in a very abstract posture, which was the government’s very broad assertion there was no immunity whatsoever,” Barr remarked.

When asked about the fears the ruling could empower Trump to wield executive power in “more extreme ways,” Barr noted the Supreme Court’s job is to write a “timeless opinion” that does not necessarily discuss the specific circumstances at hand.

“I would say what the chief justice said in the opinion, which is the Supreme Court has to write an opinion, a timeless opinion, an opinion that covers all situations in the future and that will be good for the country over the long haul,” Barr said. “And they can’t write opinions tailored to the particular exigencies of the moment.”

The high court’s ruling handed Trump a win as he stares down a federal criminal election subversion case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

The decision is likely to delay the trial, first sending the case back to a lower court to determine whether his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, merit protection from criminal prosecution for decisions made while in the White House.

“And I think the … practical effect of this is that the district court is going to do what it really should have done at the beginning, which the government really should have had it do, which is do the analysis. So, the facts are going up to the Supreme Court, so as a practical matter, there’s not going to be a trial of this case before the election,” Barr said.