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Democrats Say the Supreme Court’s Immunity Ruling Proves Its Pro-Trump Bias

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she plans to file articles of impeachment against justices over the ruling. “It is up to Congress to defend our nation from this authoritarian capture,” she wrote.

Supreme Court Justices
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

After the Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution for a broad swath of official conduct, Democrats focused their criticism not just on Trump himself but also on the bench’s six conservative justices.

They said the justices work to serve him — and threatened some kind of action in response.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement that House Democrats plan to “engage in aggressive oversight and legislative activity” to determine that “extreme, far-right justices in the [Supreme Court] majority are brought into compliance with the Constitution.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, vice ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, announced that she plans to file articles of impeachment against Supreme Court justices once the House returns from recess. She called the ruling “an assault on American democracy.”

“It is up to Congress to defend our nation from this authoritarian capture,” the congresswoman said on X.

In a short address from the White House on Monday night, President Joe Biden said the immunity decision “has continued the court’s attack in recent years on a wide range of long established legal principles in our nation,” and would functionally allow Trump to be above the law should he regain the presidency.

Some Democrats have made Supreme Court ethics — or, they say, the lack thereof — a key part of their messaging ahead of the 2024 election, particularly after controversies surrounding Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Monday’s ruling only amplified that message. They warned voters that the risk of a second Trump presidency isn’t just what policies he could enact but how he could further shape the judicial system.

“We have seen a consolidation of power under Trump from his Supreme Court because, essentially, the courts are not separated,” Rep. Jasmine Crockett said on a call with reporters organized by Biden’s campaign. “We used to have checks and balances. I am not feeling that right now. … They seemingly are operating just in service to him.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin condemned Alito and Thomas for not recusing themselves from the Trump immunity case over scandals related to their connections to the former president.

“[I]t is disgraceful that Justices Thomas and Alito brazenly refused to recuse themselves from this case. As I’ve said before, the appearance of impropriety or partiality require recusal,” Durbin said in a statement.

Maria Cardona, a strategist who works closely with the Democratic National Committee, told NOTUS that Trump would “absolutely” further change the judiciary in his favor.

“God forbid that any of the three liberal justices, you know, face any health issues or life-threatening issues that would have to retire,” she said. “Oh, my goodness, I weep for us.”

Trump appointed three of the six justices who ultimately joined the majority opinion on Monday: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign, said on the press call that “Trump appointees on the Supreme Court and the lower court … are hell-bent on continuing to rip away Americans’ freedoms and giving Donald Trump unchecked federal political power.”

Multiple critics agreed the court’s conservatives were acting as partisans.

“This is more bullshit from the most partisan court in U.S. history,” Ian Russell, a longtime Democratic strategist and former deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told NOTUS. “It should clarify for the American people that the only way to hold Donald Trump accountable is to beat him at the ballot box. The justices have become partisan hacks.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on X that the decision “undermines [the Supreme Court’s] credibility and suggests political influence trumps all in our courts today.”

Rep. Dan Goldman, who served as lead counsel in Trump’s first impeachment, told reporters in that same press call that “today’s decision by the conflicted and compromised Supreme Court has set back our democracy dramatically, and it allows for someone like Donald Trump to conspire with others while utilizing ostensibly official acts as a president to conspire to overturn an election.”

The ruling notably doesn’t necessarily exempt all of a president’s actions from prosecution; it mostly leaves the door open for prosecution over private acts. But those may be vaguely defined, and Democrats echoed the liberal justices’ dissent, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that said the court’s opinion “will have disastrous consequences for the presidency and for our democracy.”

Some Hill Democrats also criticized the lack of clarity in the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is assigning lower courts to define what are a president’s official acts and private ones — emphasizing how much leeway the justices gave Trump.

“The line between official and unofficial activity is blurred by many elected officials,” Rep. Maxwell Frost told NOTUS. “In fact, the elected official that would have the easiest time blurring those lines [is] probably the president of the United States, who speaks behind their seal, whether it an official or unofficial activity, no matter what. This just gives him the go-ahead to interpret it how he wants to interpret it, and then figure out how he’s going to deal with it after it’s been done.”

Rep. Diana DeGette told NOTUS that Trump’s goal with this trial will ultimately be to “put these trials off until after the election, and then, at least on the federal level, just to pardon himself” — and the court might have given him room to do just that.

“There’s no doubt that this is the most conservative Supreme Court I’ve seen in my career,” DeGette said. “This ambiguity under a conservative court looks like there’s plenty of room for mischief.”

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.