Trump Promises To Give Police ‘Immunity From Prosecution’

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Former President Donald Trump this week made his way to Wisconsin, a battleground state crucial to both his 2016 win and 2020 loss. The stakes, in other words, are high. So he made a few big promises to match.

One such promise: “We’re going to give our police their power back,” he told rallygoers in Waukesha, “and we are going to give them immunity from prosecution.”

Between police and prosecutors, law enforcement officers are arguably already the most powerful people in government, so it’s unclear what Trump means by giving them “their power back.” His second promise, though—immunity from prosecution—is more concrete, and a reminder of the former president’s views on government accountability.

There are, however, a few problems. Let’s begin with the first: As president, Trump would be extremely constrained in immunizing anyone, including police officers, from prosecution, as most criminal proceedings are in state court where his power wouldn’t apply. And while it’s true that some officers are charged federally for alleged misconduct—where he could lobby the Department of Justice to refuse to charge any cop—those prosecutions are often in addition to state charges. As I’ve previously written, charging anyone, no matter how unsympathetic a defendant, in both state and federal court for the same alleged misconduct strains constitutional credulity. To put a stop to that, even temporarily, would be just. The reality remains, though, that no president, including Trump, can countermand state prosecutorial decisions.

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