9:59 a.m. ET, January 9, 2024
Judge asks if a president can order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival
Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO/AP
Trump lawyer John Sauer said Tuesday that a president who ordered the military to assassinate a political rival or sold pardons to criminals could only be criminally prosecuted if they are first impeached and convicted by Congress.
Appeals court Judge Florence Pan, a nominee of President Joe Biden, posed the hypothetical questions to flesh out the bounds of Sauer’s immunity argument.
Broadly, his argument relies on the theory that presidents are shielded from prosecution for official actions if there isn’t an impeachment conviction first.
“Could a president order SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That is an official act, an order to SEAL Team Six,”
Pan said “He would have to be, and would speedily be impeached and convicted before the criminal prosecution,” Sauer said. “I asked you a yes or no question,” Pan said.
“If he were impeached and convicted first,” Sauer replied.
“So your answer is no,” Pan said.
Sauer responded, “My answer is qualified yes. There is a political process that would have to occur.”