During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made the stunning claim that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Whether Trump would lose voters if he were to commit a murder on New York‘s most famous avenue has never been tested. But on Wednesday, a lawyer for Trump told a federal judge that if a president were to commit such a heinous crime, he could not be prosecuted.
In a case over whether the Manhattan District Attorney’s office can obtain access to Trump’s income tax returns, Trump’s lawyers have argued in lower courts that not only may Trump continue to conceal his tax information, but that no president may be prosecuted, indicted, or even criminally investigated while in office, according to an NBC News report.
A three-judge panel on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, New York City, heard oral arguments from Trump’s legal team, as well as from the Manhattan D.A’s office. In those arguments, Trump attorney William Consovoy repeated his position that Trump — or any president — remains immune from any type of investigation until he leaves office.
The argument failed in a U.S. District Court last month, as reported by CNN. In that decision, Judge Victor Marrero not only dismissed Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the release of his tax returns, but he also called the Trump legal team’s claims of total presidential immunity “repugnant.”
But on Tuesday, Consovoy tried the “immunity” argument again, this time on Appeals Court Judge Denny Chin. The appellate judge then recalled Trump’s 2016 campaign claim — which may be viewed in the video above.
Chin asked Consovoy if he believed Trump could be investigated or prosecuted if he actually followed through on shooting a person on 5th Avenue.
“Nothing could be done, that’s your position?” Chin asked the lawyer, as quoted by Politico.
“That is correct,” the Trump lawyer told the federal judge.
But Consovoy added that the immunity supposedly enjoyed by a sitting president would not be “permanent.” In fact, the lawyer said, as soon as he left, or was removed from the presidency, “any local authority” could prosecute a president for crimes committed while in office.
The Manhattan D.A. accused the Trump legal team of “making up” the alleged presidential immunity rule. The D.A.’s general counsel, Carey Dunne, told Chin that “there’s no such thing as presidential immunity for tax returns.”
Dunne added that “tax returns do in fact get subpoenaed all the time in financial investigations,” as quoted by Politico.