July 20, 2024
When faced with a critical executive decision, like whether to eliminate someone who may pose a threat to national security, a president’s judgment shouldn’t be clouded by fears of future legal consequences.

U.S. Supreme Court should be applauded for preventing political prosecutions of ex-presidents

It has forestalled America’s slide into the institutionalized lawfare that hinders many other presidential republics

While Canadians were celebrating the nation’s 157th birthday on Monday, the United States Supreme Court turned in a landmark decision on presidential immunity, ruling 6-3 that Donald Trump and other former presidents could not be criminally prosecuted for “official acts” taken while in office.

Critics — including President Joe Biden — are already warning that Monday’s decision could pave the way for a presidential dictatorship, but this sort of knee-jerk alarmism is unfounded. If anything, the ruling will help insulate the United States from one of the fatal flaws plaguing many presidential democracies: the near inevitability that the judicial system will be weaponized against the political opponents of the government of the day, including ex-presidents.

In many presidential republics, it’s rather commonplace for ex-leaders to end up behind bars. This tendency extends even to established and high-performing presidential democracies like South Korea. Assuming Trump wins in November, he won’t be the only convicted felon leading a major presidential democracy.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, now serving his second stint Brazil’s highest office, spent 580 days in prison on corruption charges before engineering a stunning political comeback in 2022. Lula was snared in a sweeping anti-graft probe launched a few years after his first run as president ended in the early 2010s, eventually being convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption.

The president-to-prison pipeline is attributable to flaws commonly found in presidential regimes.

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