Third, Mr. Trump had asserted that former presidents cannot be prosecuted for official actions unless Congress has first impeached and convicted them. Since he was acquitted at his impeachment trial over the events of the Jan. 6 riot — the 57 votes to convict fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary — he argued the case must be thrown out.
The panel strongly repudiated that argument, saying his “interpretation runs counter to the text, structure and purpose of the impeachment judgment clause.” The impeachment and criminal justice systems operate on separate tracks with separate purposes, they wrote.
That interpretation, the judges also wrote, implausibly implies that all civil officers, not just presidents, are immune from prosecution over official crimes unless they are first convicted in a Senate impeachment trial. In any case, that would “leave a president free to commit all manner of crimes with impunity, so long as he is not impeached and convicted.”
Finally, Mr. Trump’s team contended that because he was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial, prosecuting him in criminal court violated the principle of “double jeopardy,” the idea that if one is found not guilty then prosecutors cannot bring a second case.
But the panel was unimpressed. It reiterated that the two processes are unrelated, while noting that the charge the House brought against him, incitement, was not among the charges a grand jury indicted him over.