King George III was the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolutionary War—a successful war fought by English colonists determined to be free from the King’s rule. At the time of the war, the British people and their English colonists’ counterparts were not “citizens” of England but rather “subjects” of the country’s king, King George, who assumed the throne in 1760.

 

Some of powers enjoyed by King George:

 

  • The power to demand absolute obedience to his civil and military orders;
  • The power to set the term of office for Members of the House of Commons without them even having the right to resign;
  • The power to choose all executive officers of the government;
  • The power to “make” laws without any input from Parliament;
  • The power to set up and govern colonial governments;
  • The power to make or break any military officer;
  • The power to accept individuals into nobility;
  • The power to grant government pensions to favored individuals; and
  • The power to assess taxation without representation.

 

King George was a vain, mentally ill ruler who, as king, was the rule of law, absolutely immune from laws that governed ordinary men. Essentially that is why the American Revolutionary War was fought—a budding desire by the colonists to have their lives, property, and individual freedom determined by a collective rule of law etched into a formal constitution applied equally to every man(white, male property owners) in the United States of America, including the President of those United States.

 

In  The Federalist Papers: No. 69, Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father who fought in the Revolutionary War and who helped draft the Constitution, described the colonial sentiment this way:

 

“The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the King of Great Britain is sacred and inviolate; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national revolution. In this delicate and important circumstance of personal responsibility, the President of Confederated America would stand upon no better ground than a governor of New York, and upon worse ground than the governors of Maryland and Delaware” whose state constitutions granted them some limited immunity.

 

In a July 2, 2024 decision, Trump v. United States, the Chief Justice John Roberts-led U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated this American constitutional principle by creating absolute immunity for the President of the United States. In the 6-3 decision, drawn along ideological lines, the Roberts court said the President enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for any official acts taken during their tenure in office. Further, the Roberts court said the President determines what an “official act” is, and no one, neither judicial nor legislative, can question his motives for making an official act determination.

 

Put simply, the President of the United States is no longer subject to the rule of law but is the law with king-like powers.

 

America fought a revolutionary war to rid itself of the king only to have Chief Justice John Roberts and his right-wing ideological cohorts return the king to the throne 248 years later.

 

Because of Trump v. United States, the President of the United States arguably now enjoys the power to order a Navy Seal Team 6 to hunt down and assassinate political enemies after making an “official act” decision that they pose a threat to the “security of the Republic,” and no one has the power to stop this official act, much less prosecute it.

 

Who is to stop them?

 

The military?

 

He is the Commander-in-Chief with absolute power over the military.

 

Perhaps Congress?

 

With their now enhanced “official acts” powers, the President could conceivably arrest members of Congress after ordering the Justice Department to investigate them for “election rigging.”

 

Under Trump v. United States, the concept of “official acts” has become a power unto itself that allows the President of the United States to be “king” or “dictator,” whichever term they prefer. Associate Justice Sotomayor put it this way:

 

“ …  the majority’s dividing line between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ conduct narrows the conduct considered ‘unofficial’ almost to a nullity. It says that whenever the President acts in a way that is ‘not manifestly or palpably beyond [his] authority,’ he is taking official action. It then goes a step further: ‘In dividing official from unofficial conduct, courts may not inquire into the President’s motives.’ It is one thing to say that motive is irrelevant to questions regarding the scope of civil liability, but it is quite another to make it irrelevant to questions regarding criminal liability. Under that rule, any use of official power for any purpose, even the most corrupt purpose indicated by objective evidence of the most corrupt motives and intent, remains official and immune. Under the majority’s test, if it can be called a test, the category of Presidential action that can be deemed ‘unofficial’ is destined to be vanishingly small.”

 

In effect, there is nothing the President does that is “unofficial” in any meaningful way. Their motives for “official acts” are no longer subject to inquiry. Presidential motives have now assumed the status of classified secrets, regardless of how criminal, in the mind of the President.

 

The concept of immunity was born in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court created the “doctrine of qualified immunity” for police officers sued for violating people’s civil rights. The doctrine allowed police to escape civil liability for violating civil rights laws that were not “clearly established.

 

Justice Sotomayor described what that court-created doctrine has now morphed into about the presidency of the United States:

 

“Looking beyond the fate of this particular prosecution [of Donald Trump], the long-term consequences of today’s decision are stark. The Court effectively creates a law-free zone around the President, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the Founding. This new official-acts immunity now ‘lies about like a loaded weapon’ for any President that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival, or his own financial gain, above the interests of the Nation. The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

 

“Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.

 

“Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

 

That is where we are today, folks—the President of the United States is now “a king above the law.”

 

Theoretically, President Joe Biden, under Trump v. United States, has the power to exact the very same revenge against Donald Trump (and his allies) as the Republican presidential candidate is vowing to do against his “political enemies” if he is elected in November. Theoretically, President Joe Biden, under Trump v. United States, has the power to exact the very same revenge against Donald Trump (and his allies) as the Republican presidential candidate is vowing to do against his “political enemies.” However, despite profound disagreements with some of President Biden’s policies, we believe it is unlikely Biden would do so because he has announced he respects the rule of law and the country’s institutions and traditions, including the peaceful transfer of power.  

 

Donald Trump claims he is above the law, and the Supreme Court, led by John Roberts, agrees. What will happen during a second Trump term is distressing to imagine, especially now that he has the absolute immunity of a king and a road map from the Supreme Court about how to exercise it.